True Kneads

My massage therapist and I have a love-hate relationship.

A fundamental part of my efforts to keep myself well, she always has the capacity to right whatever wrongs result from my physical routine.  She also knows my body so intrinsically that she’s able to glean cryptic insights about what’s going on in my life by merely having contact with my skin.  So whether I’ve been deprived of water, sleep, intimacy, or anything in between, there’s no hiding it from her.  And she’ll call me on it – with a verbal lashing – without a moment’s notice.

My first talking to occurred early on during our work together, when she inquired what I did to have so much muscle on what she referred to as my “bird-like” body.  I walked her through the evolution of my career, winding my way from pointe shoes to barbells, in an attempt to explain that my workout of choice was not exactly of the Zumba or the running-on-the-treadmill variety.

She listened intently as I rattled off weights I could lift, often referencing numbers that surpassed my own bird-like poundage.   I should have known by her silence – not typical for her Russian ethos – that I was in trouble.  And, sure enough, as soon as she opened her mouth, I was.

“You must stop these workouts,” she said without a second of hesitation.  “Just because you can do them doesn’t mean you should.”

Naturally, I protested.  I had never been stronger and was accomplishing things in the gym that previously seemed unattainable.  Why would I stop something that was proving to be good for me?  Furthermore, how could I step away when doing so would unravel so much hard work that I had already done?

I drove home from that session with her words playing on repeat inside my head, finally putting aside my defenses in order to give her comments some thought.

Could it really be possible that something that was good for me was prohibiting me from achieving something better? 

The answer, I determined, is a resounding yes.  And as with all things Badass and Beautiful, this concept translates profoundly to life outside the gym.  Because all too often we get stuck doing things simply because we can or once did without truly assessing the purpose these actions or associations are serving.  We’re quick to zone in on a handful of seemingly tangible benefits without realistically asking ourselves if these are things we actually need.

Of course, pride undoubtedly plays a role as well, as on the surface it seems counterintuitive to step away from something that has taken so much time and effort to build.  When we pour ourselves into an endeavor – be it personal or professional – we leave a piece of our soul in its foundation.  It’s then logical to deduce that heading in another direction is the equivalent of being betrayed.

But it’s not.  Quite the contrary, recognizing that something is no longer serving us honors who we are at our very core while granting us the permission to explore what may.  It takes courage and a level of tough love turned inward that is guaranteed to be uncomfortable.  But without facing it we risk the chance of settling for good when there is better, of remaining the same person we were yesterday.

So although it didn’t happen immediately, I did take my massage therapist’s advice, scaling back on the intensity and frequency of my workouts to see how my body would respond.  I watched as I became leaner, my strength soared, and my energy level tripled.  All results that shouldn’t have surprised me – but by focusing solely on what “I could,” I was stalling all along.

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