I had clothes that were tight and small, I had baggy promises that sagged around my waist. I had constricting obligations to fulfill every minute of the day. Failure was the only thing I wore that felt perfectly tailored to every curve of my body. More than my clothes, my life didn’t feel like fit. I hadn’t a clue what to do about it…
Since moving to the Triangle, getting bigger in some ways hadn’t been all bad. I had outgrown a lot of things. My heart was bigger, big enough to take on my doctoral program. My mind was bigger, stretched by 3 years in grad school. My care for my friends was bigger, having met people in Durham who were absolutely wonderful. Even my interests were bigger, I was running and biking and dancing and doing yoga and making dinners. All this was great.
Yet, when I looked at myself I didn’t see any of that. I saw a prisoner. Someone held captive by genetics and history and shame of my body. Deep inside, buried under decades of fear and regret, a desire for freedom still flickered. It was dim, though, hidden from view. I had gotten so much that I’ve wanted in my life by working hard, but my body never budged. It still didn’t fit who I was. Nothing I had done gave me the slightest bit of hope.
After showing up at the Community Workout one Saturday in February, I was completely turned off by it. I didn’t like being pushed, being asked to give it all. I was embarrassed to work until I couldn’t work anymore. It was gross to be that sweaty, worn-out guy, flopping around through the sloppiest burpees imaginable. “I’ll never be able to do all of this,” I thought. Why try?
But, it kept nagging at me…another few Saturdays went by. My friends were eating brunch, nursing their hangovers, and I was running around a soccer field or flailing through pushups like an idiot. Something about it felt right…but I was terrified…
After I bought my first Bootcamp Groupon my expectations were not met. I was disappointed to find that not one single person judged me, talked down to me, hurt my feelings, or made me feel like a failure. I was expecting to get hurt so I could quit and tell everyone I had tried but it wasn’t for me.
Much to my chagrin, every visit encouraged me, kept making me feel like I could do it. My fellow bootcampers gave their all every time. No one was aloof. No one was too good to push themselves as hard as they could. Most of all, no one saw the limitations I saw. No one said, “you can’t do that, you’re too fat! You’re too weak! You’ll never win!”
I still heard it, of course. But now, instead of a chanting choir, it was just the my own voice still heckling me, calling down from a pulpit made of my own self-hate and judgement.
Something strange happened, though. As I got stronger, that voice got weaker. It was drowned out by a new song, one composed with every pushup and sit up. The dim flicker of my freedom began to burn brighter. Turns out, the pain and shame that seemed so indomitable was just an illusion. A smoke and mirror trick that was looking more shabby and fake with every passing day. I’m still fighting it, but knowing it isn’t real, after a lifetime of belief, is an achievement that can’t be put into numbers on a whiteboard.
This might not be the story Dave wanted. I mean, I didn’t reach any particular goal this year. I lost 21 lbs and can do a pull-up, which is nice. I went from 24.7% body fat to 18.6%, I’ve lost 4 inches of waistline. Though it makes me proud to report it, none of it matters.
I didn’t reach a goal because I didn’t have a goal for 2015. I never thought I could be worth having goals.
Now I know I was wrong. While distracted by losing weight, I lost something even more important, my own limitations.That, y’all, has been the biggest gift of my first year at Strength & Conditioning. Clothes can change, but I’ve begun to fit into myself for the first time in my life, and I’m never, ever going back!