Fitting Lifting into Life

I love lifting; it is not my life. Lifting is something I do to enhance my life. It’s a means to an end, not an end of its own. I think it’s important to know these distinctions for ourselves so when the times come that we must make priorities, we are able to more accurately identify the path forward that will bring us the most peace.

I’ve been pretty quiet around here lately. The rest of my life has been happening. I’m still listening to my favorite nerdy podcasts; I’m still doing my lifts when there is a nexus between my personal abilities and time in my day. But the truth is, these things have had to take a backseat. I’m treading water, trying not to lose too much ground, but not really moving forward on these pursuits. I’m ok with it, but it means I’m not entirely sure what to write about each week.

With some added stressors lately, my trauma-impacted nervous system has been really activated. At some point, I’d like to do a deep dive into the interactions I notice between moving my body in various ways and the physical experience of my PTSD, but it seems especially difficult to parse out when I’m in the middle of it. My experience of trauma is more like Eleven hitting that girl with a roller skate than Rambo setting traps in the woods. I know who I am and what I’m doing, but my responses are pushed, elevated by a heightened sense of urgency or immediacy. In the short term, lifting seems to make that worse, although I feel that longer term, my nervous system regulates better when I’m moving my body more regularly. So, there’s ideas and experiences to explore here.

I’ve also signed up for coaching again, working on developing new habits, new ways to manage when things are challenging, so I can keep working towards my goals. The reality is, when life is good, I’m pretty on point, able to strategize and navigate challenges in ways that keep me pretty consistent with eating and exercising. But the more the rest of my life goes off the rails, the harder it is to avoid reverting to old habits and routines. Especially when it comes to eating–food has been a primary source of comfort and self-care for me for most of my life. The more comfort I need, the more I want to bake and eat. It’s ok. I don’t mind having that strategy in the toolbox, but I’d like to have more options at the ready that really work for me. This kind of troubleshooting and unlearning takes time, but I know it is the only way that works long term to change habits.

One of the narratives that I want to break down on this blog is this notion that everyone we should listen to lives this big, bodybuilder/fitness influencer lifestyle. You can tell they’re doing it by how lean they are, and you can tell how healthy and in charge they are by counting their exposed abdominals. But that’s a myth. Life is complicated and “doing the damn thing” looks different for each of us. For me, right now, it’s about balancing my lifting with the other challenges I’m facing, including managing my mental health. No amount of hardassedness will overcome the impacts of trauma on my nervous system, and ignoring and pushing through those impacts will not make me a healthier person. I would be so bold as to say the current state of my abdomen with its slight paunch says more about me finding a healthy balance in my life right now than the opposite would do.

I also haven’t stopped everything entirely, which is a real risk for those go-big-or-go-home types. We saw a lot of them disappear during the pandemic. Gyms closed and they had no options B or C to fall back on. I’m still lifting when I can. I still schedule 3-4 sessions a week, but each day I have to assess where I’m at and what I can handle. It’s less ideal for my physique but it’s better for my brain. I’m prioritizing sleep, completely skipping the idea of getting up early to lift right now. More sleep means better stress management, and I need all the help I can get. And my food prep habit is thoroughly engrained and doesn’t feel like work most of the time. We’re eating takeout a bit more often right now, but I can supplement pretty much any meal with chicken breasts and frozen veggies to get the balance to feel closer to my preferences.

So, I don’t live much like a stereotypical bodybuilder these days. I’ve never really fit the image, but it’s even more true than usual right now (other than the several pounds of shredded chicken breast in the freezer, I suppose). It’s ok. I know it’s a season I’m moving through. I’ll keep doing what I can, when I can, and when life is more amenable to doing more, it will be there for me. And that, I think, is an important difference between the folks who can make an athletic pursuit something serious and those of us who have to stay in the recreational/hobbyist side of things. My life, my needs, require that I put this stuff lower on the priority list at least every few years. It doesn’t mean I don’t love it, that it doesn’t bring value to my life, or that I’m throwing in the towel. It also doesn’t mean I just need to buckle down and push through to prove something to anybody. I don’t really care if someone doesn’t think I’m hardcore enough. I’m not lifting to prove something, not to you, not to the world, and not to myself, either.

I’m not going anywhere. I’ll keep sharing my thoughts here at PG as I have them and have the time and energy to share. I hope you’re doing well out there! You know I always love hearing from you. Feel free to leave a message saying hi and checking in below or find me over at Progressive Strength on Facebook.

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