I wasn’t going to talk about these things…
I wasn’t going to talk about these things.
I was just going to keep my social media posts ‘business as usual,’ which, these days, is all about how and why you should (at least consider!) work HIIT or interval training into your life.
And I will—and soon–because high intensity training, both strength and cardio, and interval training really can have some *fantastic* benefits for all of us at nearly every age and stage of life (we just have to structure these workouts a little differently, depending on the stage we’re in!).
But I feel compelled to talk about these things that I didn’t want to talk about because concealing them is a disservice to others.
It’s also perpetuating an image of ‘everything is fine and great and perfect and I have it all under control’ that doesn’t exist, and so to omit the not-so-perfect, potentially embarrassing stuff that also makes me feel extremely vulnerable is, well, lying. Because omission is more often than not a form of dishonesty.
I named my business ‘Real Life Fitness’ (which, being too generic, evolved into ‘Real Life Fit by Kate’) because my teaching/training/coaching is about being real, serving real people with real and messy and complicated lives—NOT perpetuating the glossy image of perfection and then dangling that falsehood as a carrot for clients to struggle to reach themselves.
I started running my in-person personal training business back in heyday of bikini and figure training, when Oxygen magazine ruled, and being ‘fit’ was synonymous with 15% body fat, having visible abs, tanned skin, and sculpted glutes.
That wasn’t something that was attainable for me—with a 5 and a 2 year-old, living overseas, dealing with deployments and the other rigors of military life—well, unless I was willing to go to some massive (and obsessive) extremes.
So my business was built on the crazy idea that we can all become fitter, stronger, more capable and satisfied versions of ourselves without needing to meet that aesthetically perfect ideal—that we get to define what’s fit and ‘ideal’ for ourselves, and we get to feel good in our own, perfectly imperfect, amazing bodies.
Let me just tell you, by the way, that’s hard to sell as a catchy business slogan, lol!
Long story short, by hiding my own struggles, I’m failing to be real, to be genuine, to be the person I’ve set out to be—online and in ‘real life.’
So here it is—one of the things I wasn’t going to talk about.
About 6 weeks ago, I tweaked my back (again). The kind of tweak where it stops you dead in your tracks, makes you walk like a 90-year old, and makes normal, basic movement really slow and challenging.
I did it in the gym—not doing anything outrageous or inherently dangerous, but doing too much within a 24-hour period.
On Wednesday evening at 5:30, I deadlifted heavy (my old PR is now soooo doable) followed by a hard conditioning workout, then turned right around at 10 the next morning to do some heavy Kettlebell Strongman work.
In other words, I did exactly what I would NEVER advise a client to do.
While a little, tiny voice had whispered: ‘maybe you should wait another day,’ my big ‘ol ego shouted, ‘You are Superwoman, you can handle this!!!”
Here’s the deal: I’ve mentioned before that a very bad fall from a horse started me down my current path of strength training, core training and consistent workouts back in 2006. What I may or may not have mentioned is that I have scoliosis, and my back is anything but ‘straight.’
So, spinal discomfort and weird alignment issues are just part of what I deal with. These weird ‘tweaks’ tend to happen when I’m going through times of peak stress, and when I haven’t been to a chiropractor/sports medicine doc regularly enough.
Luckily, this particular episode was less serious, thankfully, I was able to get really good treatment right away, and I was back in almost regular action in less than a week.
BUT, it scared me—it made me feel vulnerable, breakable, unworthy, and ashamed.
It made me feel like a fraud.
As in, ‘how can I talk about core strength, and keeping our backs healthy, give fitness advice, and teach CrossFit classes, for pete’s sake, when I can’t even keep my own back healthy?????’
Because of my feelings of shame and inadequacy, I didn’t say anything. I kept my limitations and discomforts quiet, and just focused on healing for a few days. I didn’t want to be ‘found out’ or have people doubt my abilities or advice—especially as I was just getting started teaching classes again the following week!
And then…then I thought about some of the really outstanding coaches I know, respect, and look up to.
How they let the world know about their own injuries and/or limitations, how I actually thought more of them because they were brave enough to share, and how it definitely did not affect my respect for their coaching or athleticism.
Their injuries just made them humans, and infinitely more relatable and even MORE knowledgable because they knew what it was like to work with an imperfect body…just like me.
So here I am saying: Hi, my name is Kate, I love to lift heavy, run hard, and do cool athletic things, and sometimes I get hurt because I have a perfectly imperfect body. You know, like all us humans do.
I now know to double down on Dead Bug exercises when my spine gets hurt or tweaked, that sciatic nerve flossing is SUPER helpful, and that sleeping more and reducing stress really help the healing process. I also understand that regular walks are really good for healing and stress management, too.
Which actually makes me a better athlete and coach than one who’s never gotten hurt, doesn’t know what it’s like to have limitations, and never had to recover.
“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it- it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.”
~ Brené Brown
Well, while I’m at it, I’ll share another ‘shameful’ experience I’ve had over the past two months—gaining weight and bloating, both without direct causes. Well, without being related to eating changes or changes in my exercise habits/intensity anyway.
After my period at the beginning of August, I continued to feel vaguely bloated, and my boobs never stopped being tender. That stuff usually goes away by day 3.
I kept waiting, patiently but uncomfortably, but the bloating, swelling and tenderness just got worse.
And I know it was something other people could see, but not something I felt like explaining!
Sudden 5 lb weight gain/appearance changes in a personal trainer/CrossFit coach aren’t desirable, and don’t tend to lend a lot of confidence that you know what you’re doing or can coach nutrition habits! It was embarrassing, and I just kept choosing loose-fitting tops to help hide my bloated midsection, hoping people wouldn’t notice, or wonder, too much.
By the end of the month, I was begging to get my period, and my bras were barely fitting. And by this point, I realized that I was in another estrogen-dominant phase, like the ones I’d gone through in 2015. I just hoped that this phase wouldn’t be months-long, like the ones I’d been through before.
Of course, I learned well from my past discomfort, and started implementing the strategies I’d found most helpful last time this happened:
First, I prioritized sleep—skipping that extra TV show, and taking time to wind down quietly instead by reading a fun fiction book in bed for 30 minutes..
Second, I started to put more attention and effort into stress-management: when I felt myself getting riled up or holding my breath, I’d practice 5 slow, deep-belly breaths. I started taking walks again—slow, outdoors, stopping to admire nature, breathing calmly and deeply throughout.
Third, I added more veggies to my diet and took out some of the less-helpful, starchy carbs. I ate more protein, drank more water, and worked harder to make sure my meats were more organic than not. Yes, this is more expensive, but when your hormones are taking you for a wild ride, the last thing you do is want to add MORE hormones to that mix from outside sources!
Which reminds me, I’ve stopped using candles, lotions, soaps, shampoos, and all kinds of other personal care products that contain unnatural fragrances, phalates, or parabens, which can have an estrogenic effect on the body. I figure this is good for my daughter, who is just entering puberty, too! These products are pretty easy to find in most stores these days, and the price difference isn’t too great if you get the store’s organic brands.
Fortunately for me, acting quickly seems to have helped the situation. My cycle is still a little unpredictable, but my bras fit (thank goodness!), my mood is more stable, and my midsection is back down to a normal size.
So, here I am, saying: Hi, my name is Kate, I’m 43, and I am officially somewhere on the perimenopausal spectrum, as much as I don’t want to be or feel old enough to be. But it is what it is.
I guess the big takeaway is this: we can influence things, change and adapt our eating habits, sleep patterns, fitness activities, and training plans, but we can’t absolutely control how our bodies will respond or change. We also can’t control on what timeline our bodies might choose to respond and change.
What we can do is continue to build self-awareness, forgive ourselves our imperfections, accept our bodies as continuously evolving creatures, and just keep doing the best we can along the way.
And we can be honest about those things, too, because when we are brave with our own lives, we give other people to be brave with theirs.
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
~ Brené Brown
None of us need to suffer in silence, or go it alone, or feel ashamed when our human vehicles don’t act the way we want them to—or the way the media or internet or any of the ‘experts’ out there say it should.
I’ll make sure I do my part to stay brave and honest, so that other people and readers just like you can know that whatever you’re dealing with, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
It is what it is, and we’ll just keep doing our best—individually and collectively, to adapt and evolve along our journey rather than hide and suffer in shame.
Always here for you, crooked back, crazy hormones and all!