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Movement Through Pain

Fact: I used to hate working out. You wouldn't think that based on my past Instagram posts, huh? Or the fact that I became a personal trainer?

When I was younger, my oldest sister Huong used to make me go on runs with her around the neighborhood. In her defense, I did want to be "healthy" and was, like most disillusioned teenagers, hopeful it could make me stick skinny. Running is not my thing and I will still refuse to go for a run today (unless you offer me a juicy incentive). To do a quick fast forward, I got into powerlifting at UC Davis, fell in love with it, broke the state and national record and am likely stronger than most people that you know. My chosen gym in San Francisco later became my sponsor in becoming a personal trainer.

As you can imagine, my relationship with exercise drastically changed from my adolescent years. Now, movement for me makes everything better. So, it probably goes without saying that I was not in a very good place after my dad suddenly died. I went back to NYC where I had few family and friends and a buttload of work to make up.

Huong suggested I do a class at Humming Puppy, a yoga studio we had gone to together a year or two before. We loved the class that we had taken with Tejal and the vibrational hum and sound bowls pretty much sealed the deal as one of my favorite studios in Manhattan.

The Unified Hum class started out slow. We did simple movements to warm up and began intentional breathing. The body of our flow seemed basic as well, relying heavily on yoga blocks for support. With added breath manipulation, the class became one of easy flow to intensified concentration.

"Repetition of movement calms the thoughts of the mind." The instructor spoke gently as she made her way around the class. Dang, that was deep. As I focused on those words, I realized during that class that I had finally been able to think clearly about something else besides all of the work, the grief, the exhaustion weighing my mind down. I was solely focused on movement.

As I allowed that statement to resonate, it became a series of beautifully linked moments of consciousness. Firstly, I had lots of thoughts running through my mind at any given moment. The main one of which, quite frankly, was that my dad had died. I often tried to disallow the thought to run its course the most. That was the only way to escape feeling the depression and anguish of my inability to do anything about the fact. Secondly, as simple as that statement was, movement really did give my mind reprieve which was a godsend given the thoughts, duties, and responsibilities I was juggling. Finally, I thought of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours approach which essentially says you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice to be good at a given activity. Think of chefs who become world famous-- did they only ever prep a recipe once? Olympic athletes-- do they prep for competition with just a week of practice? Or kids in national spelling bee competitions--do they run through the list of words to learn just the night before? It made sense to me that there was something about repetition, doing something a million times over, that actually brought about a surprising sense of both accomplishment and satisfaction. And I felt like I could use some of that. Putting it all together, I thought of one of my favorite forms of exercise: Powerlifting. Powerlifting, where you repeat squat, bench, and deadlift… over and over. I could hate the monotony at times, but there was no doubt I always felt better after training.

Prior to my dad's passing, I had been doing my own programming, but with so much on my plate upon returning to New York, it simply wasn't a task that I could take on and feel proud of without the proper time and dedication. And I wasn't going to improve if I didn't have the right stimuli. So, though I actually do not like to compete, I told Zander I would in hopes of enticing him into writing my powerlifting program. (Spoiler alert: it worked.)

And with that, I returned to the world of powerlifting.

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