November 12, 2015

Lift Heavy, Feel Light: How Power-lifting Changed More Than My Body.

yogi does crossfitI began power-lifting over seven years ago at the age of 40.

I traded in the five pound pink dumbbells and treadmill for heavy barbells and a routine of pushing my body to perform.

Slowly, the excess padding from two children and a life of sitting and drugging myself with food started to disappear.

If you Google “strength training for women”, you will find article after article extolling the benefits of lifting weights for fat loss, muscle shaping and stress relief. Power-lifting did all these things for me and more.

I felt better about myself, and the endorphins from the workouts replaced the rush from the sugar. For over five years I pushed myself. I even donned the ever attractive wrestling singlet and competed in numerous power-lifting meets. I enjoyed the rush of competition and having something to train towards.

Then without warning, my husband died.

I lost my business partner, teammate, coach and partner in life/crime. I felt like the world stopped and shifted on its axis. I was no longer part of a couple, and I had to change all facets of my life. I lived much of it for other people—my parents, men, my children—although not necessarily by their request.

At the age of 45, I was high strung and resentful. I had little joy, but I plastered a brave smile to my face and pretended that all was right with the world.

When people invited me out and asked what I liked to do, my immediate thought was,

“I’m f*cked if I know! Since when do I get to do what I want to do?”

I realized that I had to figure out the answer to this question, and to others:

“What do I want to be when I grow up?”

“When I peel away the layers of the roles I have created, who am I?”

“How am I going to keep moving forward without anyone to tell me what they want or how they want it.”

“Will people still like the real me?”

I was completely frozen, paralysed by the mere thought of undoing decades of pretence and overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of me.

I woke up each morning trying to figure out the direction I needed to move and the steps it would take to get there. My routine was always the same.

I would wake up at four in the morning and attempt to meditate and journal about the emotions I had hitting me like tidal waves day after day. I was not sure what to do with all the anger and sadness, so I thought it would help me to write it down. Unfortunately, I usually fell back asleep during meditation, and I could not seem to articulate what I was feeling enough to put it down on paper.

When I look back on those early entries, I see struggle, even though writing had never been difficult for me. Some of the pages have just words, since even simple sentences eluded me. The handwriting is messy and the pages are almost slashed where I pressed down so firmly on the paper with words like “mad, sad, lost and empty.”

I read books to help myself emotionally and spiritually, books like The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown. While I loved all the concepts in these books, my appreciation of them was purely intellectual.

I waged a battle with my spiritual self to find a way to embrace and apply them, feeling pangs of guilt that it took a death to bring me to life.

I was a warrior physically but a mere child spiritually and emotionally.

These parts of my being were completely disconnected.

One morning I overslept and spent most of my day in a state of anxiety that my whole routine had been derailed. In an attempt to re-establish come calm, I decided to practice my meditation (hereinafter, referred to as nap), journalling, and reading in the afternoon after my workout. I was astonished that my thoughts and path seemed so much clearer, so I made this a permanent change.

As addled as my brain was, it took me months of this pattern to realize there was a link between my ability to do transformative spiritual work in the afternoon and the heavy lifting I had just finished.

The physical effort was more than stress relief, it was a clearing.

I accumulated so much negative energy throughout the day. The stress of my job, stress absorbed from my personal training clients, sadness from my circumstances, and uncertainty and discomfort from the inner and outer chaos I was experiencing all created their own energy that sat heavy on my heart, mind and soul.

It was challenging, if not almost impossible, to actualize change mentally and spiritually when I was weighed down by all that dark, suffocating energy.

The grounding of my physical exertion dissipated the darkness, allowing me to return to the light enough to tackle all the hurdles that seemed insurmountable hours or even minutes earlier.

There are many ways to clear negative energy like laughter, yoga and meditation, so I am not certainly not pronouncing this the one activity to facilitate enlightenment.

For me, getting heavily grounded to Mother Earth and lifting up heavy things and putting them down (I have no “lunk alarm” like Planet Fitness) helps to pave the way for the work I need to accomplish to be the authentic me.

Although I do not have all the answers to my previous questions, I have better questions:

“Who do I get to be today?”

“How many more layers are there for me to peel to get to my rawest self?”

“I am able to make decisions, so how do I want to move forward? Who will I encourage to come with me?”

“How do I do my best today whether people like me or not?”

I have made more progress emotionally and spiritually in the last 18 months than in my whole life put together, so I’m sticking with it.

Weight training sped me through physical transformation, but who knew it was going to streamline my spiritual metamorphosis as well?

My smile is no longer forced but is a reflection of the joy and gratitude that I feel, even during the inevitable times of struggle.

Occasionally, I feel a pang of regret that my husband never got to know this me, but I assuage this with the knowledge that my children and friends do.


Relephant read: 

Why Women Should Lift Heavy Sh*t.


Author: Lisa Foreman

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: Greg Westfall/ Flickr


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