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The struggle is real

Learning the importance of how to balance physical and mental health

I can still remember, and my parents love to tell the story, that at age four I was put up on the high bar at gymnastics and asked to do as may chin ups as I could. The coach’s jaw began to drop and she called a couple others over to watch as one after one I continued to easily lift my head above the bar. Give me a goal and I’m all yours. I thrived on the discipline of dance and gymnastics and the reward of achievement for effort and dedication. Fast forward to today and though I can only do three chin ups (much to my surprise!), the reward comes in a different form and the motivation from a different source.

Earlier this year as I struggled with new year’s resolutions, I knew one thing for sure: if I could lower my stress level and the pressure I put on myself, I could bring more space into my life and my mind to accomplish the things I wanted to. This led to a personal pact to be fit in my mind, body and spirit – but it went further than that. In fact, when I look back in my notes for 2018 I see written down: happy mind & happy body. With happy and healthy being synonymous in my opinion, it should rather read like a balanced equation: healthy mind = healthy body. However I soon realized that neither side of this equation was whole and it was time to do something about it.

I decided this year that I had reached the end of the road to self pity and it was time to feel good in my body. No more beating myself up about what I’d eaten or not eaten, how or when or what type of exercise I did or didn’t do, or how a certain shirt, skirt or dress fit compared to last week. I needed to find a way to take care of myself all while appreciating and thanking my body for being there, for being sacred, and for being mine. We all want to look thinner, leaner, “better” and I was in the habit of working myself up into a really awful mood if I ran out of time to exercise or ate something that was less than satisfactory and was a waste of calories. As a result of this tireless internal dialogue, I decided it was time to do something about it.

I did some research, made some inquiries and by the beginning of the month I had made the (financial) commitment to a personal training gym. After all, as one friend pointed out with a half smile: can you really put a price on health? And while I’ve been doing two sessions a week with a run and yoga interspersed between, I’ve realized that a personal trainer can’t solve everything. I’ve heard it all before: “you’re so tiny” and “petite” and “so small I could just fit you in my pocket” – but when I look in the mirror that is not what I see. This battle with weight has been a long time demon for me and my “so small” stature doesn’t help. A pound on me is five on most, but excuses aren’t going to get me anywhere. No matter your figure and physique, I’m sure you see yourself differently than the rest of the world does too. And what I realized as I was writing this, is that at some point during this journey I have to find acceptance and forgiveness. I have to accept my body for giving me the ability to do all the wonderful things I have in life and not judging it for what it looks like on the outside. And I have to forgive myself for the workouts missed, the indulgence in dessert and having to give a pair of pants away because they just don’t fit right.

With that said, why bother working out? If I’ve put the wheels in motion, does that mean I’ll achieve the results I want to? In other words, where does it end? What I’ve learned is, it doesn’t. Your health is an ongoing, long term game. And while I want to feel fitter and more comfortable in my clothes (spoiler alert: bathing suit season is coming!), there are other benefits to taking my health and fitness seriously. Overcoming physical challenges and surprising yourself in achieving physical tasks, can strengthen your mind and lead you to confidently take on and tackle other goals. For me, building a stronger body, builds a stronger mind, preparing me for whatever life throws my way. And while I still have work to do, knowing I’m making progress and working towards a goal of long-term health is enough to keep me going. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be that girl in the gym again making people’s jaws drop chin up after chin up… 

Visit www.kirstenschmidtke.com for more great stories. 

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