New Castle News

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March 31, 2014

Lisa Madras: Me? An athlete? That might be a stretch

NEW CASTLE — Is it out of reach? Or have you just not stretched yourself far enough?

My friend Alexis and I have a tradition. Each year in March we attend the Crisis Shelter Auction, a fundraiser for the shelter that involves dinner, drinks, and of course, an auction. We go every year not only because we hold the cause close to our hearts, but also because it's just a heck of a good time.

This year I noticed the Black Bull Crossfit memberships right away on both the silent and live auctions. Getting back into shape has been my number one priority since my surgery in January. I've already started eating right and working out at the YMCA, but something in the back of my mind keeps asking, "When are you gonna kick it up a notch?"

Crossfit, though? Have you ever done one of those workouts, or even watched a video of it on YouTube? It's not for the faint of heart. And it's certainly not for a wimp like me. I'm 41, I'm overweight, I'm just coming off of two major surgeries, my knees and hips are creaky, and I'm so slow that if a zombie apocalypse were to happen, I'd be the first one on the menu, hands down. Those workouts are so scary that I thought my heart might stop just watching someone else do them.

So it made perfect sense (or none at all) that the little voice in the back of my brain (which obviously doesn't want to become zombie food) would insist that my more unwilling arm hold up my auction number when the full-year membership went on the block.

And then my traitorous brain immediately called me an idiot when I realized I was the highest bidder.

It turns out the owner of the gym was there that evening (unfortunately for him) and so I spent the rest of the night hounding him about what exactly we would be doing in the classes, and did he really think I could handle it, are there other "old" people there, did I mention (400 times) that I just had surgery???

Luckily for me, he was patient and didn't smack me up aside my head with one of his perfectly toned "Body by Crossift" arms. He reassured me that I would be fine (400 times) and did his best to put my mind at ease. By the end of the evening, I was so excited about my new membership that I could talk about nothing else for several days. I could only assume that this poor man had at some point dealt with other people like me before — people who believe that certain things are simply out of their reach.

I've never been an athletic person, and even though I've exercised enough to lose scads of weight in the past, I always felt a little bit like a fraud — the fat girl trying to pretend she's an athlete. Even when I was working out twice a day and playing racquetball in between, I still didn't identify myself as athletic. I never had been before, and therefore, ownership of that label was out of my reach. I'd viewed the fit and fabulous as the ones who'd been active all their lives, who had that drive etched into their DNA, whose bodies had been crafted by some divine intervention that had pre-determined their athleticism.  

What I'd failed to consider was that I was seeing the end product, not the raw materials — and certainly not the process in between. I'd failed to consider the red-faced, sweaty hours at the gym or on the track; the thrice a day decisions to fuel the body with good, wholesome food; and most importantly, the belief that we can be anything, or anyone, we choose to be.

I didn't need the validation of the gym owner (wonderful though it was) to assure me that I had any right to take on a challenge I was scared of.  What I needed was my own self-validation, the strength to listen to that little voice that told me to hold up my number at the auction that night.  The courage to overcome the fear that I might not be good enough. The belief that when I walk through the doors of that gym that, if even only for an hour, I am an athlete.

I may not seem like it to those who are closer to the end product than I am. I may not feel like it as I huff and puff and struggle to do just a few sit-ups, or a few pull-ups. But I'm definitely more of an athlete than I was when I was just watching YouTube videos and letting my fear determine who I was. I hate my body most of the time. But not when it's stretching and moving and performing like a (41 year old, overweight, post-surgery, creaky hips and knees) perfectly oiled machine. Even if that's just a few sit-ups or pull-ups at a time. And even if I look terrible in yoga pants.

This thing — this goal, or challenge, or whatever you want to call it — seems so out of reach sometimes. But if I'm going to be honest with myself, it never really has been. And as far as joining a gym with such an intensive workout? Well, go big or go home, I always say. Sometimes reaching your goal occasionally means taking a long shot.

And if you'll excuse me now, I've got some warm-ups to get to. Because I haven't stretched myself far enough in far too long.


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