As I was mentally preparing to write this essay, I had to stop and get ready to walk my daughter to school. Since it’s 21 frigid degrees, I reached into the back of my closet for a pair of snow pants that I received a few years ago, but I have never been able to wear. I pulled them on, not expecting them to fit, and they did! I buttoned them and went about my morning, pleased that I may have lost an inch around my waist, but ultimately just happy that I have a strong, healthy body that can do 20 push-ups on my toes whenever I want it to, run longer without stopping than I thought it could, and allows me to challenge myself in ways I used to think weren’t meant for me.
My biggest change during this, my FOURTH Bar method Fall Fitness Challenge, isn’t something that can be easily photographed. It’s occurred inside, and it has run over into every aspect of my life. I am more confident and less likely to quit when things get rough (and they do get rough when you are starting a new business!) I attribute this new internal mantra of “I can do this” to the perseverance I have applied to my fitness goals. I finally have connected the good afterglow of a Bar class to the contentment of a job well done with a client. To the patience I have gained to help my 5-year-old learn to read. To the kindness I show my husband. A friend commented on a picture of me that I looked as though I was in my prime, and I couldn’t disagree. (I guess this change CAN be photographed!)
My goals back in September were to keep my head in the game during classes, have fun, improve my form (and keep my DARN shoulders down!) and fit into my clothes better. I am pleasantly surprised that I have achieved most of those goals. During my long and complex relationship with Bar Method –and exercise in general–I have come to realize that once I stop looking for perfection I can actually stretch myself. The constant fear of not being the best at anything I try, right away, would have initially kept me from becoming a Bar student years ago, but in the almost 4 years that I have been coming to the studio, I have radically altered the way I think about myself. The Method, and the instructors and fellow students who make it fun and keep me accountable, have showed me how to stick with something even when all I want to do is stop. It’s amazing what a like-minded community of people who truly care about each other can do for one’s esteem. For example, I know I will never be a 5 foot 9 ballerina with impossibly long legs, but I CAN be the strongest version of me yet. It DOES take hard work, but when you see men and women of all shapes and sizes giving their all every class, it reminds you that you are stronger than you give yourself credit for!
I am someone who enjoys history, so when writing about this year’s challenge, I can’t help but reflect over all four of the challenges I have participated in. Each year, my energy level and overall health have improved incrementally, but when I view the whole timeline the differences are dramatic. I can almost do the splits on both sides. I can take advanced options in L2 and trust that my body will respond. I can stay low in thigh (even my nemesis, diamond!) when just 4 short years ago I couldn’t make it through a single set without resting. I can run two miles without stopping to walk, which is nothing short of amazing to me every time I do it (I couldn’t even run like that in high school.) When I first came to Bar, I was dealing with the fallout of my autoimmune problems, but now they are well-managed thanks to my lifestyle. I sleep deeper and better, get sick less, make clearer decisions and am overall at a level of happiness that I never imagined 4 years ago. Bar Method is such a huge part of this transformation that I really don’t know where I would be today without my studio!
I may not ‘win’ this challenge, but in my book I am a champion. I have learned that one bad class doesn‘t mean failure! I’ve also learned to be more realistic about my expectations (NO, I will not become a swimsuit model in 3 months, but YES I will have more shoulder definition and hold a good runner‘s lunge,) and turned what I want into an ever-evolving series of goals, not a one-stop shop. To be happy and healthy is the truest kind of wealth, and I am richer than I could have hoped. I LOVE YOU, BAR METHOD PDX!