I’m already tired. Really, really freaking tired. I work out 5-6 times a week intensely. I’ve been working out regularly for 3.5 years. But this, an internet commitment to sweat in someway 100 times before January 1st, 2020, is already taxing ten sweats in. One Hundred Sweaty Sweats is a challenge on social media that a friend passed my way. So, I’m doing it, and it’s kinda sucked so far.
I primarily do HIIT classes and run, and what I have learned is that you cannot do that all the freaking time. So, the first 10 sweats have been a learning experience. Identifying how self-care looks along the way to my goal is important. I have no interest in sacrificing myself for the sake of my ego. This process will involve modifications and lower key exercise and trying new things, and probably failing. Frankly, I don’t think a journey is much good if there isn’t some failure involved.
In the past year, I dropped the ache to be thin. I no longer carried the desire to shrink myself, evaporated a belief that life would be better if I were smaller. I love restriction and bingeing. How hollow I make myself in restriction and how the release of bingeing feels like a caloric free fall– its a perverse cadence, a risk with physical consequences. I do this less now, rarely intentionally, and not often. I rebound faster when it happens, shrug it off, and re-connect with my body and where my head is out. But once I really stopped caring about my weight, suddenly, I was able to go to grad school. My ambition freed up to do better, more rewarding things than memorize food labels.
As a woman, I am taught to doubt my body. To doubt that is the right weight or holds the right breast size. I am taught to doubt what has happened to my body. Every act of violence is a question mark made of bruises– what had I done to invite this behavior ?
I love moving my body. I revel in the strength it musters. It’s greatest feat isn’t in its ability to shrink but in its endless capacity for love in a finite space. By allowing my body to take up space, I’m saying “I believe you”. I believe that you need to eat this much or move in this way. My body houses tremendous physical appetites, and I’ve learned not to compare my nature with others. I believe my body when it tells me its uncomfortable or not ok. I believe my body when it’s injured or tired or hurt. I’ve disabused myself of an idea that I need to earn food or rest or affection.
Women are indoctrinated to police, sanitize, and loathe their bodies– to view the innocuously natural as unruly and unattractive. Whether it is body hair or menstrual blood, patriarchy says, ” that is gross and you need to hide it, remove it, not talk about it or show it. it makes us all uncomfortable”. Adulthood taught me that it isn’t my responsibility to change societal standards, but it also is not my burden to accept them. In accepting what other people tell me about myself, I am carrying their burden, too. So, what if I told myself something else? What if I became body-neutral? Where it’s appearance and even ability is not a subject of hyper-focus but I feel gratitude for what it can do, for what it tries to do, for how it gives my loved ones something to hold onto and call it my name.
I take medication for anxiety and panic. They make me really sweaty, specifically when my heart rate is elevated. I stopped taking it for a while when the sweating and nausea impacted my workouts. I got worried that people would think I was gross for sweating too much. But, when you don’t take panic meds, panic is harder to manage. As the panic attacks became more frequent, I prioritized my wellness over my ego. I allow my body to be gross and gnarly and unpretty. I give it permission to take up space and be a body instead of an ornament. Because here’s the real deal for all of us: if we are lucky and privileged, we grow old and saggy. Life’s heft weighs at bodily functions. I do not want to lament in my rocking chair all the muddy trails I could run, the yoga poses I could have wobbled and fallen through. I do not want to carry my regrets in my smallness.
Influencers, writers, and artists romanticize the body– call it a home, a forest, anything but what it is: a body. I don’t want to distance myself from it in euphemism. I don’t need to barricade my thoughts from my body in flowery prose. What am I trying to accomplish through this “challenge”? Well, if you know me, you know that I love a challenge. Few things light a fire under my ass like some kind of objective, like the only way I can keep my enertia is my pushing it toward something. I don’t like running away from things, only toward. I don’t want my path to be marked as a retreat from one thing to the next. What I’ve learned about running forward is that it’s not about getting the thing, it’s about conjuring the bravery to go for it. Toward is the direction for people who see the drawbacks but what to gain the skills available to those who make the trek.
This trek is gross and tiring, and I don’t think I’ll be a better woman at the end of it. I’m doing it because I’m a woman of my word. I’m doing it because my body is a congregation unto itself and the only way it feels the spirit is to move. I’m doing it because I’m forcing myself to redefine what it means to break a sweat– that it cannot always be so intense. I don’t want to “push” myself. I don’t want to exert this force upon myself. I want to BE with myself for 100 times before the end of this year. Not pushing or pulling or punching, but present in my alive body. One hundred times I dedicate to me– not to a better self or aspiration image but to the work of the moment. I hope I am more patient at the end of this, more diligent, but my fitness goals no longer obsess over weight or beating the person next to me. We can all win these 100 sweats together.