Beyond the Limits

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Strength training pushes me beyond my limits, and I love it.

I love to be active and thrive when I am in constant motion, but I never thought I would say that strength training is a must for me. I learned this week that without the dopamine rush of consistently lifting weights my mood and overall well-being is not great. I walk a bunch every day and practice some sort of Yoga or stretching but until I began strength training there was never any rhyme or reason to what I did.

Two years ago I stumbled onto a YouTube trainer that clicked with me. For some reason I always had a bazillion or more excuses as to why I didn’t lift weights. The same ol’ “not enough” time was usually the front runner of excuses. Since I started October 1st 2021, I have added 4-5 days a week of weight training to my wellness routine. I can now say that I am shocked that up until age 51, I had not found the love for the feeling I get (and the sustained feelings) following a training session.

I recently completed another 10 weeks of training and thought I would take one week off.

In taking that week off, I experienced worse sleep, elevated irritability, overall sadness, and a much gloomier outlook on life. Could it be the lack of strength training? I wanted to say it was my recent hand I injury while wrestling a bag of baking soda that resulted in a torn ligament. (do not even ask). As I look back on the week off, I do believe with certainty it was the lack of training (and dopamine) that allowed my injury and the rest of my pain to take a hold on my attitude.

When I am lifting weights I am amazed and in awe of my strength and my chronic pain takes a back seat. I am confident and empowered as I do lunges and chest presses. I thrive when I am shaking after a good session. My uplifted mood takes me through my day with ease and I am filled with unstoppable energy.

Harvard found in a study that the mental benefits of exercise has a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts — or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over.

Behavioral factors also contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. As your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. You’ll earn a sense of mastery and control, of pride and self-confidence. Your renewed vigor and energy will help you succeed in many tasks, and the discipline of regular exercise will help you achieve other important lifestyle goals.

So there it is. Proof is in the pudding. Without the added adrenaline rush from strength training I found that walking 20,000 steps just isn’t enough for me anymore.

The made up belief that I didn’t have enough time was just that–a grossly false made up belief. I have the will to get out there and do it. I do have time. I make the time. By choosing to wake up just 30 minutes earlier I have time to be still, walk, workout, and be out the door by 8am. So simple.

This week begins the next 10 week session and that will take me right up to my total hip replacement where I will then focus on healing.

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”

-Jospeh Pilates

Loving Myself

We all think we know what love is and what the definition is, but I resonate the most with how Brené Brown defines love–

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get, it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

For the first 30 years of my life I thought I knew what love was and that I was living as an example of love—dependable, reliable, giving, and selfless. I’ve come to now see that what I was really offering was anything but that. I was clueless, unaware, oblivious and at times, destructive.

Not to others.

To myself.

Back when I was young, married and raising three people I was completely asleep when it came to self love. I have come to realize now however that I simply did not like who I was, so loving me was not even close to being on my radar. It is clear now that when you love yourself, you take actions that care for yourself.

Back then I had no awareness that the fast food I was consuming and the sedentary life I was living was contributing to my very large body. I never connected that the heaviness I was in my body was a direct link to the heaviness in my emotions. And then I realized that being an amazing mom wasn’t enough love. There was someone that love wasn’t shown.

Not to myself.

When I began to what I like to refer to as “wake up” and get healthy, I started to like me. I was finding dark shadows that were lurking in my heart that were asking to be let out. The beginning to many things that were literally weighing me down. I forgave others and accepted my circumstances. I began to care for me.

The logistics in which I lost weight are simple–I changed my habits. Recognizing what wasn’t working and learning to make a very conscious decision to change it was my new way.

Some of my strategies were:

  • Eating meals on small plates
  • Chewing gum while I cooked
  • Teaching others to do their dishes
  • Putting trigger foods out of sight
  • Making sure my walking shoes were always with me
  • Changing routines to avoid mindless eating (taking long baths, going for a walk, learning to garden)

You see these simple changes were to avoid be being unconscious. This influenced snacking, portions, and sedentary lifestyle choices. Many of these changes still remain part of my life.

By swapping out the mindless munching on snacks for bubble baths or a short walk, my mind was beginning to see the value in me. It is extraordinary what happens to a person’s soul when time is spent consistently alone on a walk. The changes that occurred both on the inside and outside were amazing.

I began noticing myself.

I have spent a decade and a half living like these habits; mindful eating and multiple daily walks. I even became a yoga and meditation teacher. Basically transformed myself from an angry obese woman to a healthy and happy woman.

A vibrant life was mine.

Then I got injured.

For the last seven years I have dealt with healing from four orthopedic surgeries and learning to live with chronic pain. This body that I had worked so hard to become healthy began to defile me. It was as if she was rebelling against this lifestyle of health and fitness.

Feelings of deep sadness came.

While I have maintained a healthy weight for over 20 years, I have struggled with trusting my body. The multiple diagnoses felt at times like a betrayal. In truth, I spent a solid 10 adult years living on double cheeseburgers, fries and chicken nuggets without a stitch of pain or health issues.

How did I begin to develop inflammatory issues when I was now living my best life? My body’s ability to climb mountains, race bicycles, practice endless hours of yoga, walk miles and miles each day was endless..

And yet, my body was struggling.

I have since learned to accept what is. Learning to continue on living an extraordinary happy and healthy life despite pain.Making daily choices around movement vs sitting. Or ice cream vs a single bite of dark chocolate. And binging on stupid tv vs a long bubble bath. I’ve been extremely happy with the self love I have discovered by nurturing myself.

Loving myself.

The game changed about six months ago when I stumbled onto a strength training program. I was completely content with my body and it’s strength and flexibility-and my size- but was intrigued by this idea of committing to something new.

Questions of worthiness immediately rose to the surface. The excuses were miles long. (I can’t do that because of my hip, that will hurt my ankle, I don’t need to do burpees, I don’t have enough weights, my body is “good enough”).

Deep down I knew that all of that internal dialogue didn’t sound much like loving myself. And I knew it.

So I began October 1st. A brand new love affair with myself. And like any new love there have bumps along the way—days I doubted myself and had some pretty bad words spoken, days I wanted to give up and go back to the inner narrative that I was “good enough”.

Those challenging days of the early love affair with my 51 year old self are gone. Now, I am in complete awe of what I have been able to do and overcome. I am happily shocked at the human body and it’s ability to transform. No longer held back by the story of age or injury, instead I am madly loving my ability and what I have achieved.

Amazing how much healing can happen when you say yes to YOU.

Whether it is food choices, walking, yoga, mindfulness or even getting down with lifting weights learning to love myself has been a journey I am so grateful for.

I have found trust in myself. And isn’t trust a much needed part of love?

This new love affair is destined to last a long, long time and I couldn’t be happier.