Monday morning of Thanksgiving week, and training with J. Last Thursday was teaching day with new Freemotion upper body exercises, and after a run-through on my own on Saturday, I knew a review day was going to be necessary. There are just so many adjustments and combinations of adjustments on the machine itself that are difficult to keep straight when there is an entire List of new exercises. After reporting back on Saturday, J suggested we do a review day today while it was still fresh.

So this was a repeat/review of last Thursday, a rarity anymore. But very necessary, because OMG – I could not believe how far off the reservation I had wandered on a few of the exercises. The Freemotion machine just has so many ways to do things and the impact on body parts, the muscle focus and contraction can be reassigned with the smallest of changes. The weights I use are the easiest of the adjustments possible; there are so many tricky ways and places to feel the upper body we are striving to work.

Today was just that: all about feelings. Feeling in my lats, in the chest muscles, in the shoulder joint or the shoulder muscles. And honestly, we talked so much about so many things I would be hard pressed to do a proper recap of the review and all the things I was doing right and doing not quite as right.

However, this is a session recap post, and I find there is a lot to say about the mental and emotional aspects of my physical pursuits.

Maturity. I was 54 when I began my latest rendition of physical fitness and training last summer. Chronologically, I am middle aged. Psychologically, emotionally, I was kind of stuck in junior high when it came to the gym or with regard to fitness in general. The influence of marketing should not be underestimated, even for those of us who do not read fashion or health and fitness magazines. Just looking at my family-oriented gym’s literature was intimidating; it planted the seed that only the thin, the fit, the physically perfect work out at the gym.

I have grown up significantly in the last 17 months, and my poise and confidence have increased as the months have passed. This morning a man I see most weekdays mornings asked me if I were already done as I was walking out, and I laughed and said I was actually leaving later than usual. It was a simple comment, a kind courtesy, and it made me feel good, like a peer, like part of a community. While I still feel some anxiety and intimidation about the big boys room I use less routinely, I venture out there and I use the equipment when it is on the List of the day. Every day that passes, every morning I spend in the gym training with J or in practicing my List, my backbone strengthens and zen toward the work expands.

Worth. Most of my life, I have little sense of my own worth yet a huge, overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility. If something near me went wrong, I felt responsible for it. Any sense personal value came from other sources. In childhood, those sources were misplaced but understandable. Growing up, growing older, I mostly got better about my choices that made me feel worthy. Some were good, stellar, top drawer; some less so. The people who have gotten me this far in life were meaningful and valued, even if ultimately they are not meant to be part of my life forever. It has been a learning experience.

Exercise, getting fitter has made me value the person I am all on my own merits. While I could sit here and wish to have started 10, 15, 20, or 30 years sooner, wishing for a different past is a negative distraction that impairs me in my present day efforts. The qualities I value in people – intelligence, character, strength, compassion, generosity, more to be named later – are the same things I want to develop within myself. In large part I am successful, and I have consistently undervalued myself while chasing completion in and from other people. Learning the things I have learned this last year, I finally feel like the real missing piece has been located and the puzzle completed. Maybe that sounds weird. Having never been good at exercise, lacking the understanding of my potential and ability, learning to depend upon myself to find my focus and learn this taught me to value the qualities that have gotten me this far. I am worthwhile. I have value.

Confidence. Most aspects of my life, I have not been a confident woman. Professionally competent, dependable, hyper-responsible – all good descriptions and things I know and believe about myself. However, that did not translate into confidence about my abilities or qualities of good personhood. That characteristic seemed to be the exclusive purview of the physically attractive, fit, beautiful. It was my opinion that the invisibly average were competent, dependable, responsible; I belonged to a class of nice people, not those who have self-esteem and confidence.

Whether it is overcoming my intimidation of the gym or finding success in things that have always seemed so far out of my reach, I have attained a degree of confidence that allows me to move painlessly about the gym and within the fitness realm as well as outside the gym in the rest of my life. Confidence feels to me like a sense of emotional ease within my own skin and through my life with assurance that my competency is adequate to carry me through to where I want and need to go next. I am never unlikely to achieve magazine airbrush skinny and fit, even less likely to become traditionally beautiful in the mainstream sense of the word. Perhaps confidence is simply a succinct description of what happens when anxiety and concern about physical appearance become distant secondary to day-to-day reality.

Positivity. I used to think I was an upbeat, positive person. And I was, and I am. About everyone else. For me, the sky was falling. I was not good enough, smart enough, kind enough, enough enough. I would never get better, never amount to someone worthwhile. My value came from external sources. Thousands of words written in this blog document this fact.

I feel really good and hopeful about my next chapters and the rest of my personal book. I have developed new skills for coping and discovered my own capacity for growth and achievement. All the good wishes and good feeling and good will I have for others in my realm I now include in myself. Good things happen for me because I work for them; I earn them. There is no demand within me that I get the good stuff, only the understanding that trying my best makes a difference and brings me all I need and a lot of what I want.

What’s inside, what’s outside, and why it matters. The world seems to be moved on physical appearance – how thin, how pretty, how symmetrical facial features, how proportioned bodies and limbs, how young, how old. The physically blessed always seem to have an edge, so much so that I have developed a pretty bias that I must put forth effort to mitigate. Believing the pretty among us had an easier life made it easier to cope with the cruelty and events that left me broken and damaged.

I have always valued intelligent behaviors, positive impulses, and hard work over those who mindlessly skate on their physical gifts. I felt pretty people had it easier and/or better lives. Working as hard as I have at my exercise pursuits, some of my best qualities have been pushed to the forefront. What I look like does not matter at all in those pursuits. How my body, my face, my appearance changes does matter at all in the bigger picture. My ability to think, to reason, to listen and to learn matters. The ability to keep going and to keep trying matters. And finally, no matter what the parts of my head that believed me incapable or worth the effort, overcoming my fears and setting aside the biases that allowed them to flourish got me past that. Strength matters. I am learning and growing stronger in all ways – physically, emotionally, mentally. Character matters.

Zen. Life has been a series of impulsive or compulsive acts, some that have befallen me, others that I have chased and pursued as antidote to some empty space or crippling pain in my life. Good choices, bad choices, neutral choices – genuine satisfaction has tended to elude me. While not unhappy or overly negative externally, satisfaction and balance eluded me.

The quest for balance is an ongoing adventure. One of my friends suggested I am letting go of the reins, whereas I feel as if I am gripping them more tightly and taking more responsibility for my own destiny, including my health and ultimate happiness. Along with the other qualities I have described in this post, I have become very zen about my life and times. I believe in me. I believe that my hand guides my future, and my judgment sound enough to be the decision-making authority going forward.

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This is not my typical training recap, and today was not a typical technical review day. But that’s okay. Feelings have their place in life, and in the gym.

My experiences, feelings, capabilities are unique to me. I came into this quest with my own set of emotional scars, physical challenges, and all sorts baggage. I’m winning the war, overcoming the barriers and distractions put into my pathway and self-generated to keep me in the box with negative girl.

Exercise pursuits are not one size fits most, and my needs from my journey differ from other members of the tribe or people in the gym. I am getting stronger, in the ways that matter most to me. All the benefits I get from my training sessions and my daily practices are unique to me. And understanding that may be my greatest gain of all.

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