The ability to throw myself into things until I reach breaking point in order to escape situations I am struggling with, has stayed with me. It is my stress buster. Unfortunately, more recently, it has also become a bit of a body buster.
When I turned 60, my daughter suggested I rejoin the local gym. I’d been a member of gyms before, but all I ever did was run on a treadmill. It was my safe zone and running was in itself a means of escape. I joined the local gym. I ran on a treadmill. Run faster, push harder. One day my daughter suggested that I tried a Spin class with her. If you’ve never tried Spin, it involves riding a stationary bike, without brakes. The class is usually carried out to loud and generally quite fast music with an instructor leading you through routines of seated, standing and forward leaning cycling whilst varying resistance levels to simulate climbing hills or sprinting on flatter roads. The idea of it terrified me! A bike with no brakes? No control? No way! My daughter was persuasive though and eventually I agreed to give it a go.
‘It’s only a 30 minute class, mum,” she said. “You’ll be fine.”
That first class was so very hard going. I nearly fell off the bike when it finished and I couldn’t sit comfortably for days. But I went back for another class and then for more and more, and more. I was hooked because for 30 or 45 minutes, depending on the session, I could forget everything that was worrying me. I could escape.
Before I knew it, I was Spinning most days of the week, sometimes more than once in the day. I then moved on to try weight and strength training, circuit training and boxing. Inevitably, before long there were injuries, which left me frustrated until I could get back to punishing my body again. It had become my ultimate way to escape stress and anxiety. The Leisure Group asked whether they could do an article on me for the local newspaper – the Weight Lifting Vicar! It hit the Internet and spread across the country. How had I gone from practically no exercise to this? Absolutely no idea!
Of course it all came crashing down in March 2020 when the gyms were closed under the National Lockdown. What to do? I needed to do something whilst I was undergoing the counseling. I found ‘Joe Wicks HIIT’ and ‘PE with Joe’, his ‘Seven Days of Sweat’ and then the Fitness Instructor from the Gym began putting classes online. I was also running and set myself a 10km goal. I pushed my pace every time I went out. Of course further injury was the result. I was still recovering from my shoulder injury and now added tendonitis in my hip and then bursitis in my right knee. I kept a physiotherapist busily, virtually employed throughout lockdown!
I’d also found another outlet for my stress. I’d discovered POUND. In August 2019 a friend invited me to attend one of her classes. I loved this strange, energetic workout. POUND is a rockout workout. It is a HIIT Cardio Session inspired by drumming. In autumn 2019, I was so hooked on this new form of exercise that I trained to teach it. In fact, both my daughter and I trained to become POUND PROs – POUND Instructors. I had only just got it all started when we went into lockdown. What to do? Inspired by the friend who first got me into it, I learned how to use Zoom. Before long I was doing two free classes a week for anyone who wanted to join in. It gave me focus, it gave me the means of escape I needed as I journeyed through the traumas of my past with my counsellor.
And so I fell into a routine of running, Strength training, HIIT, POUND and cycling on an exercise bike. Every day pushing it as far as I could. I was often doing two or even three workouts in a day. I pushed and pushed. My counselling took place on Wednesday evenings and I couldn’t wait to get out on Thursday morning, until a knee injury put and end to running for a while. I was just overcoming this when I developed a kidney infection followed by Shingles. The latter brought me to a grinding halt. My means of escape had resulted in an imprisonment of pain.
Mental illness often leads to the sufferer engaging in obsessive behaviours. For me the focus has changed over the years and in latter years it has settled on the need to workout. If I don’t, I don’t feel good. It’s as simple as that.
Emotions fuel your energy
And the intensity builds
In your thoughts and in everything you do
Driving you to succeed,
To Push and push, push yourself through,
Throw yourself into every task
Nobody ever has to ask for more,
You give it your all, that’s for sure.
Emotions fuel your sense of drive
Pushing yourself is the way you survive
It helps to blot out
The things you don’t want to feel
The things in your head,
you would rather weren’t real
You push and you give everything you’ve got
You give it, regardless of it hurting or not,
Push and push until you’re done,
All energy gone
And has the push taken away the pain?
No, Not a chance
So tomorrow you’ll repeat
The push again.