Most of us have been, at some point in our lives, on the Injury Bench. One minute you’re the Mistress Of Your Fate and twirling around a pole, hanging from an aerial device, or trying to survive a cardio class and suddenly … BOOM. Congratulations, you have an injury.
Do not pass go, do not collect $200. It’s a complete bummer and can slow your motivation and forward momentum towards a healthier lifestyle. For some, it can derail their entire desire to exercise as they hang up their lycra forever, while for others it can become what some refer to as a “personal growth opportunity.”
If you’re lucky it’s a strained muscle that a few days off will heal, but sometimes recovery can take weeks and even involve the expertise of Liz, The Most Wonderful Physical Therapist On The Planet. (Hi, Liz! And no, this is not a sponsored ad, she really is amazing at what she does. I think its magical powers, personally.)
Alas, my major BOOM came because I can be really headstrong and stubborn. Those traits can certainly be positive, but in the wrong circumstances they can really bite a gal on her butt. Which they did.
So, yes, this blog post is about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and what it means to me. (Sorry ((totally not sorry)) but I had to go there).
The great thing about Aradia is how inclusive it is and how we promote respect towards others and ourselves. In fact, I’m pretty sure there would be a team of sword-wielding, ninja-unicorns leaping out of the woodworks if anybody tried that body-shaming crap towards another person.
That being said, I found it amazingly difficult to respect my own body, but not in the way you might think. I’m not talking about thinking body-positive thoughts or feeling warm and fuzzy towards my slowly contouring biceps, but in actually respecting my current physical fitness abilities, and that sometimes my body knows more than my brain on what it actually needs.
We all have physical goals we struggle to conquer. Maybe it’s the ability to do a shoulder mount, a perfect plank, or not pass out during Hot Core class. Sometimes those obstacles can be met and overcome through training and further conditioning, sheer grit, or by approaching the problem from a different angle.
But what happens when life throws you a curveball? How do you react? Do you keep going no matter what, ignoring what doesn’t agree with your Life Plan? Do you change your approach to exercising and try for something less “dangerous?”
About 10 months ago I decided to ignore my body’s exhaustion and the warning signs that things were not well, and go do my normal workout anyway. The result of that poor choice was painfully cracked ribs that required 4 complete weeks of downtime from the gym, and 2-3 more weeks of taking a very light load of classes to finally heal.
I’m not going to lie, I was really, really, REALLY pissed off about this. I may have thrown an adult tantrum in the quiet and privacy of my own home, even as I struggled to accept the fact that I was not Super Girl. I wanted to fly, and instead I found my wings (temporarily) clipped.
You would think that after I returned to classes I would have learned about listening to my body, right? That I would be more mindful of myself, perhaps? That I would have realized that working-out and training are more than just the ability to flip and twirl around a pole or do a thousand squats? Surely such a firm rap on the metaphorical knuckles would have enlightened me on these facts, yes?
… have I mentioned that I am a stubborn and headstrong idiot?
So there I was, taking classes and cheerfully ignoring the fact that something was still wrong. I was having fun, I was getting stronger, and I figured it would go away with enough Icy Hot and Tylenol. I was a tough and independent lady with goals and a certain timetable of events, and I would be damned before I let some wussy boo-boo slow me down. I was the Beast Mode, and the Beast Mode was me!
Seriously, I remember thinking, what could go wrong?
Yeah, I know, never say that. Whenever that phrase is used I can literally hear Fate snickering and turning towards his pal, Life Plans, and saying, “Hold my beer, eh?”
So I bet you can guess what happened next.
This time I managed to very badly pull a good number of my abdominal muscles so that even standing or twisting was a new and exciting challenge. This sparked yet ANOTHER few weeks off from the gym, and I constantly fretted that I was going to lose all the strength that I had gained. In the very back of my mind I even started to wonder if maybe I was cursed. Some of my non-gym friends even questioned why I continued when I seemingly kept hurting myself. I think my best friend even suggested perhaps shuffleboard would be more my speed, lol.
After a few weeks I returned even though things still felt a bit wonky, but the difference was that THIS time I listened. THIS time I respected my body’s warnings that not all was right in abdominal paradise. This time I did not bang my head against a wall with my fingers in my ears, demanding reality bend to my whims even as my body crumpled under the weight of my (then currently) unrealistic expectations.
So I called The Bestest Physical Therapist On The Planet, and made an appointment. (*waves* hi, Liz!)
I don’t consider myself a particularly naive person, but at the same time I hadn’t realized how much damage I had done by ignoring my own body and what it had been trying to politely tell me for months leading up to The Original Rib Incident. Instead of listening and learning specific exercises to strengthen my weak areas, focusing on gaining better technical abilities, or even just taking a few days off, I only felt resentment at what I considered an unwanted attitude my body was throwing me.
If I wanted to continue with pole dancing, or even just regular exercise in general (and no, I was not interested in shuffleboard), I needed to fix what I had rather callously busted and abused. Slowly, very slowly, my body healed and grew stronger. I unlearned bad habits, and learned some better ones.
During this “character building” time of my life, I developed a little bit more patience. Real respect for all the crap I put my body through on a daily basis. Determination. The key importance of core strength in everything we do. I finally realized that I needed to listen and hear what my body told me, even though it sometimes meant having to sit on the sidelines. I learned to not be embarrassed that I was currently unable to do what everyone else could, and that comparing my progress to others was a really good way to make me miserable and more pissed off at myself.
All of this happened because I was too stubborn to listen and respect my body when it told me that something was wrong. That I was muscling my way through moves when I should have focused more on correct form. I experienced months of irritation, frustration, impatience, and pain because I was so focused on what I wanted to be doing, that I didn’t keep my mind focused on the now.
Working out is not easy, and everyone will occasionally experience strained muscles or bad bruises. Some soreness is normal, and some injuries can be worked around and do not need bench time. Others require you to do that hateful thing called “adulting” and actually respect the fact that you need a break. That our bodies are more than just luxury high-end vehicles for our brains to ride around in. The instructors at the gym are awesome with giving plenty of alternative exercises, and people are understanding if you have to sit certain activities out, but it is the individual student’s responsibility to set their own pace and goals.
We all want to exercise and get physically fitter and stronger. To be able to pull off amazing pole tricks or gorgeous aerial displays. Part of the process is realizing we are not made of titanium, and that we all need to have (or gain) enough daily body awareness to know when something is wrong. Respecting our bodies is not just respecting how they look, but also respecting how hard they work to do all that we ask them to do. Showing them a little love and consideration in return can really save a lot of time, pain and irritation down the road.
As for me? I’m finally back to doing all the classes I want to do and as many times a week as I feel up to doing them. I still see Liz The Most Amazingly Magical PT On The Planet (hi, Liz!) a few times a month and I like to think my abs are now made of almost-titanium alloy. I am more mindful of what is going on in my body, and I try and pay attention and not run myself into the ground. Overall, exercising and pole dancing is going fantastic, so what could go wrong?
…. oops …
Aradia Fitness Cary offers classes for all fitness levels. For a description of classes, along with prerequisite requirements for attendance and levels, please visit our website here.
Article Written by Khara Johnson, Student at Aradia Fitness Cary in Cary, North Carolina.
July 20, 2017