The Dark Side of the gym

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“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

It was a chilly Wednesday evening. The clouds overhead muted the world to dull colours and greys.

I can remember driving their on the first night, the churning in the pit of my stomach, I was definitely nervous, I had ‘the fear’. I did my best to push those thoughts to one side but that’s not always easy when you’ve had a LOT of practice in self-sabotage by the What Ifs…

What if everyone else was fitter than me?
What if everyone else could do everything better than me?
What if I was the fattest/slowest/[insert negative trait here]?
What if…

But no. I stepped through the door and an hour later emerged into the evening light feeling tired but elated.

On the Thursday I was aware of the muscles I’d been using as they mildly complained with each movement. I hadn’t felt that for a while (and pretty sure I hadn’t ever felt some of them before at all).

But on Friday that changed. I was in pain. The kind of muscle pain that adds a … pause and a …. breath… prior to every movement. I felt it as soon as I woke and pondered just how the hell you get out of bed when you can’t physically sit up (roll and slide people, roll and slide). As I stood up I ached. As I walked to the bathroom, I ached. As I bent over the sink to brush my teeth, I ached. And that’s before the convoluted joy of getting dressed when you can’t physically lift your feet higher than about an inch off the floor.

This can’t be right, I thought. It shouldn’t be this painful, right?

Was it me? Had I pushed myself too hard? (probably) Or was it them, those dastardly trainers! Why had they inflicted this on me!?! What had I ever done to them? (aside from my usual sarcasm of course). With every sore step I could feel myself getting angry. Angry at the gym, at the stupid weights, at the trainers, at myself for living on a hill. Grrrrrrrrr.

Then a moment of clarity, and I remembered Master Yoda’s sage advice. I would not give in to fear, I would not let my anger build into hate, because hate leads to suffering and sweet mother of doughnuts I did NOT want the suffering to get any worse!!

And you know what, it worked! By the Friday evening I was largely ache free and moving around no longer required the …ohgodthisisgonnahurt… pause that was a large part of my morning. I even got off the bus a few stops early and walked home, just to stretch my legs!

Phew! I thought, that wasn’t so bad after all. I did not give into fear and my suffering diminished! Thank you, Master Yoda, for the wisdom. What a relief not to have that dull ache in my legs, and back, and arms…

Which is just as well, because the next morning, bright and breezy at 9am (ok ok, I was there at 9am, bright and breezy needs three coffees…) I was at it again and I’ve been repeating that pattern over the past 5 weeks.

No, I’m not sure who I am any more either.

Last night we hit the halfway mark of boot camp and I’ve loved every minute of it, even the minutes of agony as you push to do just one more rep of an exercise before the time runs out, even the feeling that there simply isn’t enough air in the world right now no matter how much I gasp and wheeze, even those moments of dread when you are reminded that no you aren’t finished you have one more set to do.

A large amount of credit for this has to go to our trainers, Andy and Juan for providing such a great, welcoming and positive environment, not to mention no small amount of encouragement. I can feel and see the differences already, and I’m looking ahead beyond the end of Boot Camp to see what’s next (another new development for me, I want MORE of this!).

One of the biggest things I’m going to take away from all of this is that the right kind of exercise is more important than just ‘any exercise’. I don’t mean the type of exercises we are doing, I mean finding something that you enjoy, something that makes the ‘go to the gym’ routine an easy part of your week, something that means you don’t mind Friday nights out being limited by a 9am start on Saturday mornings. Finding good people, a good place, and lo and behold you’ll FEEL GOOD about yourself. Rocket science it ain’t, but it’s so fundamental I think a lot of people overlook it.

At the start of Boot Camp we all wrote up our short and long term goals. For me the short (by end of Boot Camp) goal was to do 10 push ups. That’s 10 full, proper form, push ups. I’m not quite sure where I am on that goal – I’m deliberately not trying it until the end of Boot Camp – but it sure feels a lot more achievable now than it did 5 weeks ago when I couldn’t even do one.

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