Respect your body – where ever it is today.
Let me confess something to you. I am a completely crazy-competitive person. Seriously, every yoga class I have ever been to has stressed the importance of not competing with yourself or your neighbor and I am good with that for about 60 minutes — then I want to see how far we can throw rocks in the parking lot. I love competition – I love the way it makes me feel, I love how far I can push myself and I love seeing people win – like really win – and do something they never thought they could do. That being confessed, I have some pretty angry injuries that need to be tended to and would be less angry if I turned down my competitive volume.
The reasonable person would just say back off and let your body rest – but since I am far from reasonable in this area, I have pushed myself pretty far and now at the ripe old age of 36, I have some things to take care of. I have to modify a lot of exercises – and by modify, I mean lower the weight, support my neck all the time, use blocks and straps in yoga class (which everyone should do, by the way), and spend less time with pounding road work. Not to say that I don’t do what I love to do, I just do it less often and do far more therapeutic work than I have in the past. And you know what has happened to my fitness and my body? It has gotten far better than I ever imagined! Who knew that you didn’t have to kill yourself and your results would be better? Well, entire teams of scientists who specialize in the body – they knew. They knew that rest was the most important thing to the growth and rejuvenation of the body. They also knew that success would be realized faster and better if a person started where they were and progressed slowly and deliberately in their fitness.
Why do I bring this up? Because I see and hear lots of moms who are trying to get back in shape post-baby and they are being pushed to do things that their bodies shouldn’t be doing. For instance, I had one woman tell me how she needed emergency surgery after she tried to do hanging leg raises only a few weeks after having a C-section. She would have been much safer and experienced better results had she worked her stability and her strength in a squat or in a chair pose or just standing on one leg.
My point here is that there is an A-Z order to progressing through fitness. After baby, most of us women go into compare mode and want to skip all of A-S and pick right up at T – doing the exercises we see the tiny-waisted-no-shirt-wearing woman at the gym doing. We have to start where we are — especially us moms who may have had to take a break from fitness or just had a baby. Start slow, build your stability and balance and your endurance. Then you can start including the “cool” exercises in your routine.
Being competitive is great and can drive you to do great things – but if you are just getting back into fitness, make it your mission to go through A-Z and don’t skip steps. Give your body a chance to change and it will! It will shock you! I have made lots of mistakes and injured myself lots of times trying to rush back from each baby and from surgeries.
So I listened to these people who knew. I started with the basics. I modified my workouts to respect my body where it is now. I listened to what things hurt and are calling for attention. I moved on when I was stable and had the endurance to keep my core engaged, handle the weights I was trying to lift, and keep my form correct through the workouts. Wherever you are in your fitness, I encourage you to build up your stability and endurance – do the boring stuff before you try to keep up with the cool guy in the little shorts at the gym. Make sure you can maintain your form in a squat, a plank and a push up before you go crazy and try “beast mode.” I love beast mode – I love killing a workout, but I also like to walk the next day. I also want to be a good example to my clients who I tell to be where they are and repeat the stability and endurance exercises we do in our sessions. I have seen the human body do amazing things – my own and others. I have seen people recover from life altering accidents and be more fit and agile and flexible than ever before – but only because we showed their body great respect and met it where it was every day.
So if I am the person at the gym standing on one leg and doing some crazy Karate Kid move, just know I am trying to increase the stability and endurance in my body and keep my inner rock thrower in check. If you are tempted to join me in the “Compete With Everyone” category, join me instead in competing with yourself, to integrate all your great talents and capacities. You will go farther than you ever expected, in less time than you think. R-E-S-P-E-C-T isn’t just a great song – it’s a mantra all of us “fitness” people should live by.