I just wrapped up 5 weeks of Kaia F.I.T. – a form of cross training for women only. Let me say, this is the first time I’ve *ever* done a fitness program, much less consistently. I’ve never even been to a real gym before (other than to use a bathroom, drop off flyers or cross through to reach a Starbucks.) In the past, I would do a few weeks of yoga once a week, get busy and forget about it. Kaia F.I.T. has been an overhaul of my daily routine and my fridge- with sessions three days a week and a Saturday morning run.
Kaia F.I.T. has tested me physically and mentally but challenged what I thought was possible. At times, it was discouraging to see how bad I performed and how out of shape I truly am (I was in denial for years) but I still feel thankful for the opportunity to have this reality check and chance to cross-train to make my first half marathon in January manageable. Here’s a few things I’ve learned….
One of my Kaia F.I.T. coaches is a great woman named Cynthia. This woman is skinny as a rail and strong as an ox, with grown children and young grand children. Don’t let looks deceive you, she may look small, but she is mighty! Just 2 months ago, she underwent surgery for kidney cancer and within 3-4 weeks she was back at the gym coaching classes and taking care of her family. This woman had just had major surgery and she was still able to kick my butt at just about every exercise… I was floored but totally inspired. She defied what I thought was possible for myself even if at the moment it sucked realizing how far I had yet to go.
At many of the classes she teaches with Kaia F.I.T., she yells out encouragement to keep us pushing, but one of my favorites is “nobody knows your heart.” In my Kaia class, there are women of varying abilities, ages and health issues. There were times that I would try and keep up with a seasoned fitness veteran only to feel deflated that I wasn’t able to cut the mustard even after 4 weeks of trying.
While “nobody knows your heart,” is poignant advice to the soul and will of many of us trying to get in shape, the advice also pertains to our physical hearts. This powerful muscle in our bodies is probably one of the most ignored parts of our bodies unless it’s giving us problems. Truth is though, our heart takes time to grow and get stronger in order to help us perform better. While many of us are focusing on the muscles we can see, our heart & lungs are doing much of the internal work to help us grow stronger- especially if you’re starting from scratch like I am, you have to work with the heart and muscles that are often undertrained and tired. Don’t be discouraged if your heart isn’t as strong.
What you see on the outside is no real indicator of what you have to work with on the inside- work with what you’ve got and don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. In fitness, your heart is symbolic of both your will and the physical strength you need to get in shape. Each of us has a unique experience, a unique body and a unique history which all impacts how hard and how long we’ll have to work to reach our goals of physical fitness.
Surely, a piece of cake only has 100 calories and surely, I could easily burn off that 100 calories with a quick jog around the block. Surely, if I “wanted” to be in shape, I could easily kick these extra pounds in the hiney. Surely, I could run as fast as I did when I was a kid, I’m just slightly out of practice. I can’t tell you how many times I downplayed the true cost of what I ate and my inactivity. Conversely, for years I underestimated the time it would take to get in shape and hit my goals. My brained skimmed over the hours I would have to put in and how far behind I truly was.
I also seemed to tell myself only people that were in “good shaped” were young athletes that graced the covers of magazines or I saw jogging along the rode with their trendy athletic gear on and a perfect tan. You can imagine the swift reality check I had when a pair of 80 year old women blew past me on my first 10k and I scrambled to keep up. Time after time, my ass got beat by women twice my size, twice my age and women pushing a stroller with a young baby sleeping inside. Just this week, while at Kaia F.I.T. class, a woman in her late 60’s held a plank for nearly 4 minutes, when my 26-year-old self pooped out at a minute and a half.
Yep, I got beat, again by a gray haired lady who most would say, should be weak and frail where I should be young and vital- but she, and many others who defied what “ability” would suggest have beat me in performance, strength and endurance. You may not be able to compete with the magazine covers, but don’t think that someone who “should” be weaker or slower than you, kicks your butt without trying. You have to get out there and do your personal best.
As stated, sometimes it was really depressing to get real with myself that progress wasn’t as fast as I’d hope or that I wasn’t in as good of shape as I’d assumed. There were days when I just had to sit it out and watch the clock, hoping it get better, or that I would. I learned some valuable lessons- while it’s sad to realize you’re worse than you thought, it’s better to have this reality check NOW instead of when I lace up my shoes for my first half marathon, thinking I have it handled when I truly don’t or when I am ready to get married and I’m tackling wedding prep and years of bad eating habits simultaneously.
Being around my coach, Cynthia, and seeing her resiliency also taught me that health shouldn’t be taken for granted. We won’t be young and healthy forever- when illness does happen, having healthy habits already in place are the best prevention to keep a bad situation from turning worse. Some days, it’s really hard and I know I have far to go to even get to her level- but I am equally inspired that some day, that could be me… even when overcoming a terrible disease, you don’t have to take it lying down. Don’t assume you’ll be able to handle whatever life throws your way down the road, do the work now, while you can.