At 31 years old, I never expected to want to get into the best shape of my life. But this life is constantly challenging us, and we are on the search to reinvent ourselves, if we are open to it.
I never expected to find my true self through loss and heartbreak. I never realized how exposing a breakup could be, internally and externally. I never gave myself the chance to be at the top of my game. And I never quite realized what it meant to endure losing everything, in order to grow, become stronger, and work on the only relationship that matters: the one I have with myself and my body.
At 31 years old, I was a married business owner; living my own version of the American dream: or so it seemed from the outside. Nothing could happen to change the path I was on. But just as we never expect massive change, my life transformed, drastically. I was on the course for divorce. And with the split, I lost everything I had made my world.
Ugh. Divorce. I never thought those words would be a significant part of my vocabulary, especially since my model for relationships are my parents who have been together for 36 years. But we never make a vow, start a career, or choose a path, expecting it to end. We put our best intentions forward, and try our utmost to muscle through the pains and dips.
I had no idea that the person I was capable of becoming, would be so much different than the person I was while I was on this downward spiraling track. I was left feeling like a wandering spirit, disconnected from my body – and living in survival mode. How do I take care of myself? How do I re-invent my career? How to I find a fresh start? And how to I feel better in my body than I had?
We all experience loss – from death, to losing friends, partners, pets, jobs – the only constant in life, is death, change, and re-birth. And through my despair, through losing everything, through seeing the dark nights of my soul, I realized that I wanted to live, and live bigger than I was previously. My life, however short, would not be taken for granted. And I would fight, like hell, to recreate myself. I knew, that every next step of my life would demand a better version of me – and a stronger body to back it up.
The loss we endure are external pieces of energy that we have no control over. People may always disappoint us, and we may always feel lonely; But this is the human condition. And this loss, if we allow it, can fuel us to a brighter path, where we are able to live in our highest capabilities. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience it to the utmost - to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.”
These are the ways I endured loss, and came out, sword in hand with a new vision for who I am. My journey of fitness was how I took my life back. Let me explain:
Move Your Body, Everyday
“Remember, life is not a natural disaster. Life is not a careless hurricane. Life does not move, you do” - B. Oakman
Loss creates depression, and depression urges us to stay stagnant. I remember thinking, at the beginning of my divorce, that I could stay in bed for months, or years. But the driving force in changing our perspective, or helping increase our adrenaline or dopamine (happy brain chemicals) is moving the body. Our bodies and minds are so connected – and we often feel that one has nothing to do with the wellness of the other. But in movement, exercise, activity, and blood flow, we are transported from a stagnant version of ourselves, to a limitless and moving one.
Life doesn’t simply happen to us, we make it happen. Going through deep despair, I was lucky enough to have a community of friends who helped get me moving. My buddies got me moving – and after engaging in a calisthenics workout, I felt a surge of being alive, and being genuinely happy and thirsty for more.
The movement and exercise at Club Calisthenics is different because the focus is on correct body movement, and getting in touch with your body in a way that surpasses any other physical fitness pursuit I’ve ever tried. I was reminded, through struggling through pull-ups, ring-rows, straddle press and handstands, that I was powerful. I was strong. I had room to grow and become better. And the encouragement from my fitness friends gave me an added belief in myself that I somehow lost along the way in my failing relationship. Hearing encouragement externally helped me to retrain my brain to feel these same sentiments about myself. My self-doubt melted away: And it all started with simply moving, everyday, and getting my butt into a workout.
Start with your weak links, and challenge yourself
“Drink from the well of yourself and begin again” - Charles Bukowski
It’s impossible to be in a healthy relationship with anyone, if you don’t already have a strong love for yourself. In my fitness journey my ex hadn’t been particularly supportive and often gawked or made fun of my training or getting up before the sun rose to get to class. I still went, but it made it more difficult. And I found myself spending more time giving my energy away, that my cup had drained to nearly empty. Now that I’m single, I’m able to give myself the love I need, and deserve, but it took a shift in my vision for life. And it took me taking a real look at myself, and my body. If I feel weak in a certain area, I don’t shy away - I work harder at it. The only real relationship that is lasting and the one that matters the most, is the relationship we have with ourselves, and our bodies.
I realized that by working out, by training hard, and by the excitement I had when I started to see greater muscle definition in my body, was that I wanted to love myself even more: through the pain, through the sweat, through the sore muscles and through pushing myself past my comfort zone. I wanted to love me and my body more than anyone, for the first time in my life. Instead of giving compliments to a partner, I started looking in the mirror and giving myself affirmations: “You are strong, Holly. You are capable. You are looking good. This is hard, but you’re getting there.”
Be stronger than you thought possible
“Let this darkness be a bell tower and you the bell. As you ring, what batters you becomes your strength” - Rainer Maria Rilke
We’ve all felt that nasty feeling of defeat from not rising to the top like we’d hoped. Maybe we didn’t get a promotion at work; maybe we came in close to last at a marathon; maybe we lost a sales deal and a commission check. Or maybe we lost love – and no matter what we tried to do, it failed.
Defeat is one of the most difficult feelings to navigate and can easily slide us into feeling ‘victimized’ or full of self doubt. I often jokingly say ‘I suck at relationships’ after my recent divorce, but what I’ve learned is that the darkness of being alone only feels like defeat if I let it. And I don’t have to suck at the relationship I build with myself. I may not have control over what feelings arise, but I have control in my reaction to them; I realized this one night while staying up late writing poetry and listening to sad music. My greatest opportunity, comes from my defeat. To know what failure is, is to be able to be fearless next go-round. And in life, I refuse to have regrets; I refuse to give up on love; and I vow to love myself first.
In taking calisthenics courses, and seeing more advanced students, I don’t feel less-than; but inspired to be greater; to work harder; to continue to grow. And also, to love every step of the process. Each defeat we experience can propel us to greatness. We see where we fall short, or what improvements we need to work on, and we go after them with full intention and gusto, like anything in life.
We fight for what we believe in. And after fighting for someone else and a relationship that was stagnant, I will no longer fight for something I don’t believe in. But I will always fight for me; because this life is wild and precious; and I have mountains to climb, handstands to conquer, progressions to take; and a path that will lead me to becoming the best version of myself. And it starts with the relationship we build with ourselves and our bodies. And it becomes our legacy by the motivation and drive to continue to develop it, at every turn-pike and every disappointment we experience. ‘What matters most is how we walk through the fire” Charles Bukowski once wrote.
P.S. Did you know that mobility work translates into the ability to learn new skills? Develop strength in a fuller range of motion for your calisthenics journey with this FREE Mobility Video!
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