The dumbbell feels heavy as I curl it to my chest.
My body is slower going up when I go through my pull-ups.
My body stiffens and screams when I lengthen my hamstrings and calves.
My heartbeat quickens when I throw those jabs I used to love so much.
My body remembers that feeling though,
My heart remembers too,
And I know I’ll feel better once I finish.
Aging is interesting, and the time that passed me by this year has also been interesting. Granted, we as a collective have gone through so much pain, sorrow, and perhaps joy at new developments. But I think it is safe to say that it has been a pretty shit year for us all. I certainly don’t want to delude myself with current events, you’ve got to wake up and smell the roses from time to time.
Almost a year ago now, I was training away at my local gym, working with clients and trying to keep up with the demands of my job and employers, while slowly losing my cool and my mind. I wasn’t healthy despite what my body and vocation might tell you. I was a mess.
I was losing control of my schedule. I was losing control of my diet. I started drinking more and more, and I was distancing myself from my friends and family. I was already in a toxic place at work with the constant comparisons with my co-workers, both in our workflow and sales skills, but also our looks and bodies. I hungered for a real connection with someone, but all I had were fake relationships where I couldn’t be myself, and fake positivity ran rampant in our workplace. Though, that was a problem I had since my cynicism was growing by the day.
After taking a break from exercising nearly every day for hours at a time, I feel… better. What I mean is, my mental state is a lot better than it was. Granted, I still have all manner of issues, like my trouble making and holding connections, which might come as a surprise from having such a social and engaging job. I still have issues with stating boundaries or recognizing them at first glance. I also have trouble saying what I want or recognizing what I want. My assertiveness has been an issue for so long since I was always taught to put others first in my life, which I suppose lends itself to professions like personal training.
My body hurts a little more than it used to after a workout, and I notice pains I never had before. I finally get it when older clients threw out remarks or jabs at my age, “You’ll feel it when you’re older,” a client said when we were going through an exercise and I was trying to figure out a mechanical issue. Though, I ought to count my blessings since I worked out like mad for so many years. I can still bang out pull-ups, push-ups, or a run at a whim. Some things stick with you, and it is proven that losing muscle takes a really long time even when not exercising. But seeing how my body has transformed has been humbling, but sometimes upsetting.
My old employer used to say I was shredded when he checked my body composition, fat-to-muscle ratio. And I suppose I was, but I didn’t fully believe it or accept it. I was always being compared, and I found a need to compare as well. Nowadays, what were once muscular abs has almost been covered by a layer of fat that I have gained over these months of staying in and not focusing on my body.
It feels better to not make comparisons though, which I did all the time unfortunately. I had a co-worker that carried more muscle than me, and he was always being lauded and complimented in our meetings and on the gym floor, and I was never recognized for the work I had done. I felt insignificant, and I felt pathetic. I felt fraudulent because I didn’t look the part. I knew all these ways to build muscle, or to gain strength, but I didn’t look large and muscular, so it made having discussions or helping people difficult at times.
Why did I care so much? Why was I always wanting their attention? Why did I need to one-up this co-worker? Something else I learned while looking back at those years was my terrible relationship with men, and by that, I mean the insecurities I had of myself.
I got abused a lot. And not like a smack of the hand or a belt to the bottom either. I got dragged through my house, wailed on, thrown in the shower to “cool” off, things thrown at me. And the verbal abuse was also a thing as well. I was always being criticized and told I was stupid, a dumb monkey, and a moron. My self-esteem was a mess. For years after that, when I was being verbally abused, it would almost sound legitimate and good-natured compared to when someone provided a real compliment. I don’t trust the compliment in many cases, but it has gotten better. With so many years not trusting people, to being around that “fake” positivity and seeing people show kindness, it reminded me that people aren’t so bad after all. But I was still a spectator, and I was hard-pressed with believing legitimate connections with kind people since they still felt fictional.
After all this time staying in working on myself, making amends with friends and the people I care about, and talking with the right people, I don’t feel all that better. I mean, I do, no doubt about it, but it’s not like some awakening or some holy light filling the sky as I shout, “Eureka! I got it!” Life keeps on going, and time marches on. I am grateful for finally feeling like I can be myself around anyone and everyone, rather than keeping a façade for the sake of a business or someone else’s sake, though that doesn’t mean I have a license to be a dick to people.
One thing that has been hard with all this change has been the remorse of hundreds of relationships fading into oblivion and letting hundreds of people down. I don’t exaggerate when I say hundreds, it is how it was for me, leaving my job, clients and members behind. It feels like a void in my life, a gaping wound that could never be filled again. Not to mention the many promises and assurances that came with my job, all broken and never able to be reforged or worked on again. Makes me think of a break-up or something like it, except times 400 and more.
But that’s life baby. And as I move my body a little slower, struggle to lift those weights, or feel the heat of my lungs as they catch fire, the fact that my body can keep doing it is something to be grateful for. I have gained weight for the first time in over ten years, and I feel like myself for the first time in twenty years. I think, despite the trials and tribulations of this year, I have a lot to be grateful for, and it felt great to move those weights. Onwards and upwards.