Thursday, June 4, 2020

Returning to 'Fitness' Again...What does it mean Now?

I find myself returning to the question of what the word fitness means for me, invites for me, as a 51 year old Midwestern white woman with a serious condition of late-onset athletics-CrossFit-ism.**  Did my InBody scan this past weekend, a practice I hope to do about twice a year, simply to track my own journeying. End result? I am quite fit as a 51-year-old woman, having gained weight—two lbs muscle, some lbs fat too—but remaining at the top 0.2% of my peergroup, 0.1% of all women. 

But I sit here befuddled, because I’ve never been here before and I don’t quite know how to BE in all I have learned over the years. 

What does fitness-maintenance look like for me? 
Who is a woman who is happy with her own body, just as it is? 
Do I have any specific goals for myself now, here?

I have been in the flow of CrossFit for two years this August, Dedication Health almost exactly one year. The notions I have had of ‘fitness’ changed over the last decade, as I allowed my presumptions and long-ingrained habits to encounter the norms and practices of a personal-trainer for many years, then CrossFit Dedication, a circle-community gathered around fitness.***  A lot has changed in my own mind and well-being over the 2-3 decades I’ve been on this journey ‘back to my body’ as a recovering-academic and egghead writer and circle-way-leadership woman. 

I have wrestled some demons to the mat, pinning specific themes or focus points needing to be overcome—beauty, for one, and whether I roll with any of my culture’s toxicity’s with that; shame for another, in women’s (and men’s) body experiences and self-evaluations. Both of these words have much less hold over me than they used to. I’ve also learned to slow my life down enough to actually listen to my body’s sensations and intuitions amidst so much busy-ness. Listening to my body for wisdom has changed my life, my work, and how I play. Then there is the pursuit of basic health, how to live a healthy life to the Full in a culture and corporate-mire such as ours. I know an awful lot more than I did just two years ago, and yet I do find myself dancing with new partners, fitness and happiness. Not wrestling. Not overcoming. Dancing... I am actually quite fit, and I am happy in my own skin.

Of course, me being me, I had a pretty predictable internalized response to the InBody scan. I felt sad and surprised that I had gained weight. Even though I know now that total weight does not measure fitness, nor happiness. Believe it or not, I discovered I could be happy with my body when I was at my heaviest weight I’d ever been, well over two years ago. I’m pleased with that awareness and sensation, which freed me to simply enjoy being in my body and enjoying its movement. Not to control it. Not to force it into some preconditioned appearance or number. Delight in my own body. Then, at my heaviest; now, at my most-fit. So I know fitness remains, even being heavier in total pounds. Two pounds of the gain was muscle, about double that was in fat. Then I had a deferred delight with the more summary numbers—top 0.2% of my peer-group, 0.1% of women. So by such records, I am an incredibly fit 51-year-old woman…

...who is now a bit at a loss with being delighted with where she is in her own body. How does a woman live in a confidence and delight in her own body, no matter how it looks or moves? When do we reach 'fit-enough'? What does fitness-maintenance look like, for me?

I think I wanted to name all this aloud, because I can feel the seductiveness of the ‘training-for’ intensity now, especially as my capacity has increased. I’m not sure how or why it rose in me this year, but I prepared myself and then entered into the full Murph Memorial Day practice, DB version with bent-over-rows instead of pull-ups. My athlete self reveled in the challenges of it. My achievement-oriented self cherished the challenge and the accomplishment. My whole-self did NOT enjoy the three days of completely spent triceps and weary shoulder mobility, wondering how badly I had overdone it. But I can feel myself searching for the thing I’m now training for…because my body can do a lot more now than it used to, if I wanted to...

A good friend reminded me back into myself here, for which I'm grateful. Staying with my learning, even my mantra: enjoy the movement. Even when something is tender or sore, there is always some movement I can enjoy, surrounded by encouraging friends and coaches. And my movements are strengthening and lengthening, which is satisfying and is enough. I’m enjoying running more. I am feeling enjoyment as I move with the barbel again. Lunging feels easier and I’m not worried about torquing my right knee with usually tight-IT bands. I jumped-rope backwards yesterday, for Pete’s sake. Enjoy the movement

Enjoy the camaraderie. I had wondered what driving back to the gym would add into my felt-sense of days, given many of us had learned how to do Zoom workouts together as a ‘pandemic stand-in’ for the months of #StayAtHome. There was a part of me that resisted getting back in my car to drive to the gym each weekday. Yet the ineffable, inarticulate, unnameable reality of being back in the gym simply energizes my body and my soul. Bodysoul I usually say. I do get to see the ones who chose not to Zoom into workout spaces, as well as the ones who did. The physical-distancing practices are wisely in place, and the camaraderie is well-nourished by all of us. Enjoy the camaraderie. It is easier and better when sharing physical least six feet apart. 

Enjoy good food, mostly protein and plants, and live into Life’s Fullness too. I remain free in food choices, feeling desire and preference for food that actually nourishes my movement, my self. I noticed the stress habits that returned last month, with some work developments amidst quarantine requirements. But even then...a good balance of healthy eating and conscious enjoyments of a Life that is Full (i.e. a good cocktail from time to time, or a piece of challah on a Shabbat Eve...if you’re gonna have bread, have the best, I say…). Life is meant to be lived to its fullness, after all...and I am a woman with an easy 'overdrive' personality. Hmmmm....

I’ve climbed mountains all my life, metaphorically speaking… The forward drive to achievement met my needs to be seen in my family, to keep my balance amidst some difficult emotional challenges… Professional drive earned me credentials and standing in establishment communities and institutions. Spiritual drive (yes, there is such a thing) has kept me seeking, always seeking the More, much to the exhaustion of those around me, those I love and who love me. So perhaps...perhaps the next invitation for me to lean into is to rest actively on my laurels and enjoy my body, enjoy the movement, enjoy the camaraderie, enjoy what has been given and earned in this particular Now. 

How do I understand fitness now? Being able to move freely and well, then eating food that nourishes my love of movement. I am becoming my own benchmark here, methinks. Just get better can mean a slightly longer run one day, a slightly lighter barbel the next, as I love my body as she is. Or a slightly heavier barbel one day, and a row instead of run. Fitness-maintenance means showing up, reveling in what we get to do each day—distinctly and together, being 8 o'clockers with different 'plans' most days—and tracking from time to time, to notice any changes in season and sensation. Enjoy. Challenge and play. Listen.

Then....Let fitness and happiness dance together, I say, led by the movement. Delight comes that way, after expressive delight able to companion the suffering of self and others breathing in future horizons, pregnant right here.

** Thanks, Susan Brasier, for that witty phrase...
*** I experience CrossFit as a circle-esque community identified for its commitment to fitness, health, holistic well-being. I know not all CrossFit gyms emphasize this as much as mine does. Many prefer to draw in ambitious athletic folks training for...the Games? Local competitions? Themselves? I find all of that entertaining, even enjoying lurking on a couple FB CrossFit groups to ‘watch', but that is not what engages me or keeps me so involved...