Today’s blog post was written by a member of my fitness tribe, Fitness Junkies, based in Windsor, NS. She’s everything #IAmStrong celebrates!
I am strong. It’s something I used to resent hearing. I thought it was a backhanded compliment, like when someone called me cute. To be strong meant I wasn’t thin, or I wasn’t beautiful. I wasn’t the ideal.
I played sports my whole life and never felt like an athlete. I was never the fastest or the most skilled. I had talent but I didn’t stand out. I didn’t want to either. Then in university, after sports fell away, anxiety and depression surfaced. I have a terrible memory for that time in my life but I clearly remember my first anxiety attack. Not being able to breathe, I just sat, soaking in thoughts that I would later come to realize were stories I was telling myself. Stories of “I am not smart enough, not independent enough, not disciplined enough, not pretty enough, not good enough. I am not enough.” I sought help and began taking medication.
It was around that time I started going to the gym. My partner and I would workout together. It helped but I didn’t really know what I was doing and it was intimidating. Eventually, I joined Curves For Women. It was basic circuit training in a non-threatening environment and I could do it. I worked hard and I got results. I lost weight, my energy increased, my mood improved and I was able to come off the medication. Working out was my new medication, something to check off my to-do list once a day. I was still telling myself stories. “I am being active to counteract my lazy nature and to help keep me from having panic attacks.”
When I moved to Windsor I was invited to Kathy Johnston’s Fitness Junkies class and it was the exact right thing at the right time. It was a community of like-minded people working out at our own individual levels, pushing ourselves beyond our self-imposed boundaries. I would attend twice a week, Sundays and Thursdays, because I needed the three days in between to recover. It became a routine, and I continued through my pregnancy and postpartum as well. My body appreciated the physical challenge but my mind required it. I give full credit to this level of physical activity for sustaining my mental health. Over time, I was able to come to more classes and take on new challenges more easily. I was still telling myself stories. “I may be lazy but if I keep working out, I can lose some weight, I can get stronger, I can be happy”
Fitness Junkies is aptly named. It is addictive and transformative. The community aspect draws you in. It is so much more than a workout. Its members support each other through difficult times with meals, money or help moving house and through celebrations of birthdays, babies, cooking classes, creative outlets and achievements. We share core values and it spreads outward to our local community by supporting great causes like Relay for Life, Terry Fox Foundation, the TrALE Run for Search and Rescue and many more community based initiatives. It has been amazing to watch Fitness Junkies grow and I have been so proud to not only call Kathy my friend but also to witness the journey she has been on. She has helped me, and so many others, to change the stories we tell ourselves by modelling what it is to live authentically, embracing the life you have now, to be the best you can be in the present.
It is from Kathy’s journey that the #IAmStrong event was born. The event took place in a middle school gym, with people from all different backgrounds and levels of fitness. It was an incredibly diverse and challenging workout organized by Meraki Event Planning and Fitness Junkies, highlighting local fitness businesses Fitness Junkies, AppleValley Crossfit, Kettlebell Krushers and The Yoga Hen. What struck me that day was a familiar feeling. It settles somewhere between my chest and my gut. It is that same feeling of anxiousness I experienced back in University. I now recognize it as Energy. An energy we were all sharing. What has changed as a result of being a Fitness Junkie are the stories I tell myself to harness that energy. “I am fit, I am healthy, I am active, I am creative, I am myself, I am love, I am kindness, I am a helper, I am a friend, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a mother, I am a wife, I am enough and I AM STRONG!” YOU ARE STRONG!