The response to last week’s post, Returning to Fitness After Loss, was both comforting and overwhelming.
While I read every single comment and email and Facebook post, I found myself unable to respond to them, grief being still so very fresh. Sometimes all it takes is a sympathetic look or a gentle hug to start the tears flowing again.
Thank you all for taking the time to offer condolences, share experiences and suggest ways in which I might use exercise to help heal myself and move forwards, towards a ‘new normal’ with my family.
Some of you shared with me how running or yoga helped you through a period of loss.
Others suggested simply walking in nature as a soothing way to nourish both spirit and body.
A few told stories of stopping exercise and abandoning healthy eating for as long as a year after the death of a loved one. And how they returned once again to fitness, when the time was right.
A close friend suggested an obvious solution to my anxiety about going back to a gym where I know everybody (and even in the absence of personal tragedy, can barely get through a workout without stopping to chat and acknowledge clients, class participants, colleagues and friends…); switch gyms for awhile. Brilliant!
Another friend suggested I just ‘do it’. (No offence, but Nike slogans don’t motivate me at the best of times 😉 ).
Many of you posted variations on the themes of ‘give yourself time’, ‘practice self-compassion’, ‘celebrate the small victories’ and ‘what you can, when you can’. Sound familiar?
Surprisingly, even though these themes focus prevalently in my fitness coaching practice, I’ve failed to apply them to myself. Sometimes the teacher needs to becomes the student.
I took all of your suggestions to heart, but in the end, realized that my biggest challenge right now is to reconcile the fact that what I need exercise for right now, is completely different for the reasons I needed it in the past.
Now is the time for finding joy in movement, feeling better in my body and minimizing the aches and pains that set in when I’m not exercising regularly. Bicep development, bench press PR’s and pull-up progress seem unimportant these days.
And that’s okay.
I need to take a compassionate approach to exercise.
I need to be gentle with myself and avoid comparisons of past progress and goals with where I am right now.
I need to plan a small number of short, weekly workouts and be willing to adjust my schedule depending on how I’m feeling on any particular day. Alas, I still can’t predict how I’ll feel by lunchtime, let alone tomorrow or the end of the week.
I need to keep up the daily walking routine my husband and I have created. Revisiting the paths and trails that Clara loved. These hand-in-hand outings provide the opportunity to talk about how we’re feeling and to shares thoughts and memories our beloved daughter. We recognize that tragedy can destabilize a marriage and are determined that ours remains strong.
I need to let movement soothe me and still the blender of thoughts in my head.
I need to let members of my community share their condolences and sadness with me, knowing that even though it may move me to tears, others are hurting as well and only want to offer comfort and support.
I’m hopeful that by meeting myself where I am, doing less than I think I should and being present in the simple task of moving my body, I’ll be setting myself up for longterm healing and success. (This approach, coincidentally, is what I recommend for anyone just getting started with exercise, or returning to it after a hiatus…).
At least that’s the plan. A compassionate approach towards exercise.
And since it’s always worked for my fitness coaching clients, I’m hopeful that it will work for me, too.