There is no possible way I can do another set of these, I thought to myself, mid-pushup. I had just foisted myself off the ground, begging my already tired abdomen and screaming shoulders to bring my body up in a straight line. Too tired to listen, my knees dragged behind.
“No rep,” the coach told me, meaning my pushup hadn’t counted because I had “wormed” up instead of following proper form. “C’mon, breathe, you can do this.”
I saw stars before my eyes, I could barely breathe, and my stomach threatened to heave. I fell back onto the ground. There’s no way I can do this. I took a deep breath in. Of course, that’s what I thought at the last three stations… I grunted a huge exhale as I willed my body up in a line.
“There we go!” Coach yelled. “That’s 20! Now, pick up the dumbbell.” Panting, a dropped to my knees, tried to clear my head with a quick shake and breath, and stood up.
Yesterday, I competed in the UFC Gym Challenge on a bit of a whim. I haven’t been training and going to DUTs (Daily Ultimate Trainings) nearly as much as last year since I became ~laser focused~ on that sub-4 marathon. Still, I have the Spartan Trifecta Weekend coming up in August, and I decided to just jump in. I assumed I’d be out by the first heat anyway, but have a little fun and a good work out in the process.
Well, while I had a blast, I have to say this wasn’t just a “for fun” workout. Marathons test your ability to keep steady and find a solid pace internally. Competitive fitness, though, pushes you to your limit and keeps you there for as long as you can withstand.
And, I’ll be honest, it was mentally trying. I nearly cried throughout, I could barely breathe, I let my mind get the best of me and screwed up exercises I should’ve been able to do. The first round had not only been competitive, but had two exercises I always hate– wall-balls and double-under jump ropes.
So, when I squeaked into the top 5, I was baffled. Still, I had about 10 minutes to get over that amazement, and fortunately the semi-final round had exercises I love: farmer carry (aka run as fast as you can carrying 90lbs, which I love), KB cleans, shuttle runs, burpees. This was my time to shine.
While I loved the girls I was competing with, there was this sense of inadequacy on my part– these girls were LEGIT, and I felt not at all prepped for this. What was I doing here? I was going to humiliate myself, and maybe I had to be okay with that.
Then, during the farmer’s carry, I started gaining on the woman who had placed in front of me. Then, the doubt and pain cleared from my mind and said, “This is yours if you want it. This is what you have created your body to do.”
At that point I broke out from my steady walk to a jog, 45 lbs plates in each hand. I smiled internally as I realized that, even though I kept thinking I couldn’t do this, I just… kept doing it.
My boyfriend was very sweet and came to watch me compete that morning. He’s never actually seen me race or work out competitively, so I was interested to see what he thought.
He was sweet and supportive throughout the whole race, and watched the finals with me (I finished a close fifth in the top-5 round, which I was very happy with). After, he mentioned how hard it must be when you see someone like the top girl, Lauren, in the competition. “I mean, you have to know you’re probably not going to win once she enters.”
My answer surprised me. “I think most of us know that we’re not going to win when we enter. I know I didn’t.” And I really hadn’t. I had been amazed even to make the top five. I had put myself through this, truly, just for fun. There was no belief that it was about the win or the prizes (though I did get a cool water bottle), just a question to be answered: Can I do this?
This morning, I woke up and EVERYTHING hurts. My shoulders, my lower back– everything aches from yesterday.
Still, I can’t help but smile when I think about that moment yesterday: This is what you have created your body to do.
I thought that again this morning when I looked in the mirror, my muscles flexing and moving under soft curves that I also love. I don’t feel good about my body lots of days, but I sort of can’t help but appreciate it the day after a tough race like yesterday’s.
There is so much marvelous ownership in that. So much power in that feeling– knowing that not only did my body survive, but thrived because of the work it has put in. I can’t help but feel that’s why any of us– especially women– get out there and lift heavy or run far and fast: our body is the body divine. My body is my own, and I can mold it into whatever I dream. What amazing and ridiculous thing can I teach it to do next?