Stripped down - The Series
My names Sophie, and i'm gonna strip down.
Anxiety has been a close personal friend of mine for as long as I can remember. I haven’t always formally known it is as such. It spent a lot of time being an antagonist that I refused to give power to. Then one day I realised that I couldn’t really do that anymore.
And so I needed to embrace it. Make friends with it. Figure out what it did and didn’t like. The things that made it happen. The things that made it sad. I learned that a lot of things made it sad, almost angry.
I tried a lot of things and then finally I decided to try exercise.
Initially, it was yoga because that was supposed to help calm the nervous system and make you relaxed. I found that I spent all my time looking like the total newbie that I was and worrying that I was in the pose correctly and then being frustrated at the lack of flexibility in my long limbs so quickly had to put that one to bed.
Then I tried spinning. I thought the cardio hit would leave me high on endorphins and it did to a degree but it also made my hip flexors feel tight and it flared up a knee problem I’ve had seemingly since birth. I thought that doing sprints on a bike at my own pace might make that better, but what it really meant was that I half-assed my way through a 30 minute workout and it seemed like it got the job done, but I don’t think it really did. I tried swimming, but I hadn’t done it for so long that I lost all of the good technique that I once had and got tired within half a lap and then had to switch to backstroke which made me feel like a failure. I didn’t go near the weights section because I didn’t know what to do with them and even though I was entitled to a free personal training session at my gym, my good ol’ friend anxiety didn’t like that so it never happened.
So I searched high and low for a form of exercise that might actually make me happy and soothe the ever niggling sense of anxiety that looms over me.
Then one day I found barre.
It was slow. It was controlled. It worked muscles in my body that I didn’t know existed. It burned like you would not believe, there remains to this day no burn quite like the barre burn in my exercise routine. It made it difficult to walk and cough and laugh the following day as my muscles DOM’ed up. They hurt the day after that too. But it seemed to make my 'friend' happy.
It made me want to exercise more. It put me in a class situation that I liked being in and didn’t involve a stationary bike. It meant that I wouldn’t have to try and force myself to like running (it remains a thing I categorically will not do). It put me in a studio that offered so many other classes and a variety of different way to move your body (the place is literally called Move Your Frame). It put me in an environment where I felt safe enough to try new things. Figure out what did and didn’t work me. Find out what instructors bring out the best in me terms of what I bring to a workout. It led to me finding out that I am actually way more co-ordinated than I thought and that is primarily because I have a basic sense of rhythm that I’ve never really paid any attention to before.
I found myself slowing migrating from being a solid back of class participant to being front and centre and not hating it when for whatever reason an instructor used me as a point of reference for something.
It also nurtured to my creature of habit ways. I do pretty much the same classes on the same days every week and although sometimes it can feel like a bit like I’m going through the motions I’ve curated a routine that works for me enough that it gets shaken up quite often and so although I can kind of go through the motions, I can’t necessarily get bored per se.
It led me to finding something that I am legitimately passionate about. And want to learn more about. And study and try to at some point down the line give to other people what it gave to me. It gave me a new appreciation for my body and what it can and can’t do. A new way to challenge myself both physically and mentally. A new way to manage my stress and anxiety. It took me to a place where I found exercise fun and enjoyable and has lead me to a place where if I don’t get some kind of work out in them my body gets a bit angsty, but has also taught me about the importance of rest. Total complete rest. It means when I am feeling particularly lazy I don’t feel bad.
It hasn’t all been good. There were flares up where it became almost obsessive and was another way to control myself but because I wasn’t restricting food it was ‘fine’. There were times when I was just go, go, go all the time and I didn’t really understand what resting my body meant and why it was important.
But it was through exercise and fitness that I learned these things about myself. Some the hard way and some just came to be without me even knowing.
And now I am at a place where I just move when it feels right and never ask more of myself on any given day than I know I am capable of. Sometimes that means pushing myself extra hard, sometimes it means just showing up.
And the thing that I am most excited about for 2020 is being able to put together my own classes, choose my own music and choreography. And start teaching.
THANK YOU SOPHIE for stripping down with us - we adore you!