I think my big challenge for 2013 is to get comfortable with my emotions. For most of my life I think I’ve been in the habit of suppressing my emotions, trying to keep them in a “normal” range. And that kept me out of a depression zone, but it also kept me out of a euphoric zone. And, in the end, it didn’t actually keep me out of a depression zone.
My emotions, especially the ones related to sadness, anger, guilt, and shame, are scary to me. It scares me that sometimes they just come out of nowhere. It scares me how intense they are when they do come on, like an undertow in the ocean that can sweep you out to sea. And sometimes I fear that my emotions are a bottomless pit of despair, that if I allow myself to feel what I’m feeling, that I’ll never escape to normalcy, much less happiness, again.
But historically, none of those things have been true. I’ve always found happiness, even in slivers and pieces. My anger has never fully consumed me into a hate-filled, violent machine. Those emotions just needed to be expressed. And I did myself a major disservice by trying to rationalize them, or trying to censor them into some shadow of an expression.
So it’s been interesting over the past few weeks as I’ve been improving at CrossFit and weightlifting workouts. My body seems to be remembering what it feels like to be an athlete and to push itself. I love the feeling of being strong, I love the ease of mobility that comes from moving my body all day long.
One weekend my brother (and trainer) left town for a weekend getaway with his friends and fiancee. He left me a workout to do, which was a 20 minute weightlifting circuit of 3 reps Overhead Squats on the odd minutes, and 5 reps Pendlay Rows on the even minutes. Afterwards he created a quick CrossFit workout of 5 rounds for time of: 5 Double Unders, 10 Wall Balls, 15 Push Ups, and 20 Sit Ups.
The weightlifting was enjoyable and manageable, but the CrossFit workout kicked my butt. I’m can’t do double unders, I’m not very efficient at wall balls, and I have to do push ups on my knees (at least for that volume). During the second round I was desperate to quit, and told myself, “Ok, I’ll just do three rounds and then call it a day. No worries. Just finish this round and one more.” But at the end of the third round a voice came into my head saying, “Come on, Katie Pie, we can do this whole workout. Let’s get it!”
Katie Pie is the only nickname I’ve ever had in my life, and my mom is the only person that calls me that. We can talk about nicknames another day, I guess, but in this instance, some subconscious body wisdom had chosen to use the nickname to encourage me, and to express its solidarity.
For the first two rounds of this workout, I was completely in my head, and my head was not at all enjoying this bodily experience. I wanted to escape. Just get it over with, and get me out of here. But my body was trying to tell me something different. It loved the effort. It loved the push. It understood every emotion happening in my brain, and it asked for surrender, to just let it all happen and find some new boundaries.
And that’s where exercise fits into my philosophy. Forget getting the perfect body or burning off dessert. Exercise gives you a connection to your body. And, in turn, your body provides you with an anchor on which to hold while emotions are swirling around like a most tumultuous storm. I love exercises like yoga, running, and dancing to connect to my body. And I love exercise like rowing, weightlifting, and CrossFit to push the edge and reaffirm the commitment between my mind and my body. When I push beyond the edge my mind sees, I know that my body will catch me, and then we can grow together.