There has been an overwhelming wave recently in the fitness world and beyond, of focusing on the self, positivity, and feeling good. We are inundated with messages in this new age of empowerment and self-love, encouraging us to prioritize the things that make us feel good, happy, and stronger. If something isn’t working, get rid of it! Don’t try and fix it - leave it! If something no longer serves your happiness, move on! You don't need negativity in your life! I am all for the positive and empowering messages of late, however I also worry that just maybe we are missing out on a pretty critical and key component of what self love and empowerment really mean. Maybe we need some of the bitter to taste the sweet, and just maybe our victories are that much greater when we haven’t avoided the unpleasant missteps, pitfalls, and boulders along our way, but learned how to navigate and deal with them.
When people ask me what fitness they should do, I always say, "find whatever it is that you love". But love and enjoy are sometimes not one and the same! For example, I love bootcamp classes, not because they are necessarily enjoyable 100% of the time, but because they bring something out in me, something big, gritty, resilient. They enable me to discover something about myself that I may not have known going in. The act of persevering through discomfort (not pain, then you should stop!), in order reach a goal, or a personal best, or even to simply finish a class, gives so much satisfaction and happiness to me. Knowing I am able to command my body and do things I couldn’t a year or two ago, gives me power, and makes me feel like I can accomplish the same feat outside the studio in “real life”. And that, to me, is self-empowerment. Do I enjoy being pushed to the brink of exhaustion some days? Not so much. We do the work to get the reward.
In relationships, of course, it becomes a bit trickier. Our happiness often is derived by being surrounded by loving, positive, friends and family who want the best for us and who don’t sabotage our efforts. But even in friendships, abandoning ship at the first sign of turbulence will never bring us the real and enduring love we are looking for in our lives. A friend of mine had an interesting discovery while doing yoga the other day. Her instructor told her to acknowledge where you are, accept the challenges, the struggle and the adversity. Don’t judge yourself for them, don’t run away from them, just keep going, and find the strong in the struggle. Eventually you work out of it. This really resonated with me.
I am about to embark on a really big challenge in September - climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa with 12 other women on a charity fund-raising event for Breast Cancer. I feel it’s safe to say that I have never been fitter in my life than I am right at this point. That being said, there are no guarantees that I will make the summit. The altitudes are known to be quite formidable, with altitude sickness striking any age and fitness level, and especially as someone who was admitted to the ER last year for AMS while on holiday in Colorado, I have some reservations. On the advice of a doctor, I have precautions and medication to take to potentially alleviate the problem. The trek may not be enjoyable the entire time, I may not even reach the summit, but I know one thing - I will come away stronger and better for the experience. And the example of hard work, training, and overcoming I am giving my children, will be one that they remember.
One of the hardest parts of “adulting” is to do the hard thing. In any area of our life: work, fitness, relationships. Yes, we need to be positive, and seek out opportunities to succeed. But if we only attempt the things that we know will guarantee success or happiness, if we only keep in our lives the things that are easy, and peaceful and positive, if we keep avoiding storms and turbulence, eventually we lose the ability to fight, to struggle and to truly find our strong. I encourage you to do the hard thing you have been avoiding — try the one thing you may have been dreading. At the worst, all your fears will be realized and it’s a complete failure, but I guarantee you will be stronger for it. And at the best - you find something amazing out about yourself that you never knew existed, and you get to see a wonderfully magnificent view from there — not only of yourself, but also of the world around you. Have a great weekend.