In the carnage of my failed partnership and in the wake of my broken dreams, I jog backwards in the mirror.
I wear black underwear, elastic waistband slightly stretched, faded material droopy in all the wrong places. I remember the words of my friend Shannon, whispered ominously before coffee-break bagels in our work cafeteria, 10 years ago:
“When you need motivation to work out, you need to jog in the bathroom, in front of the mirror, naked. Start frontwards, and slowly turn around, and then watch your butt run. You will start finding the time to exercise.”
My body bears evidence of stress: Stretched skin over bony joints, flappy skin, baby belly remnants two years after the fact. My legs ripple with cottage cheese and my skin is yellow from a diet of Doritos and coffee. I stop jogging, stare at the shower head above the bath, and think of how I used to love to run through trails in the forest, mud splattered on the back of my shirt, my legs strong and determined in their strong navigation over moss and rocks. I remember the power of my body and the sharp, tingly pain through my nose as the cold air breathed in and spread through my body in life-infused tingles.
I think of what I was, and what I could be.
I think of my toddler boy and my failed plans and I know: I owe this body more than I’ve given it. It’s provided me with life and a baby and the foundations of a long and beautiful life, and I’ve smothered its potential in chocolate chip mint ice cream.
I think: This will be the last time I ever run in front of the mirror. From now on it’s outside, and it’s accompanied with a sense of purpose.
Shortly after my saggy-underweared bathroom revelation, I started jogging. It was slow and tentative at first, and my legs were rubbery and often I had to argue furiously with myself to keep going. I ran in the rain during lunch breaks at work, when my son was in preschool. I ran around sea walls when my baby was with his dad — my ex — and as my flab started firming, I started gaining back the confidence that gets lost in the wake of a relationship’s demise.
When I met my now-husband, a year after I started rediscovering my body’s best state, I was running nearly every day. The more I ran, the less wine I drank, the less compelled I was to substitute a cookie dough Blizzard for a reasonably healthy dinner. My husband had some wound-healing of his own to do, and we ran together; every step giving us power, every inhalation bringing hope, self-respect, and, most importantly, a rapidly improving bottom.
Together, we discovered Crossfit, a cross-functional exercise movement that combines gymnastics, running, and Olympic lifting. We both gave up carbs and sugars, and, somewhat absurdly, became pseudo-experts in the subject of fitness and its capacity to conquer demons as well as flab. We wrote blogs about clean eating, exercising, failing and stretching limits. I marveled almost daily over the fact that I, in my mid-30s, had suddenly and astonishingly grown a six-pack. And I wondered: Why didn’t I know this before? Why didn’t I realize that this was doable and enjoyable and that fitness has the capability to enhance every facet of my life?
The media often focuses on fitness as a means to a skinny, airbrushed end, and it’s really so much more. Done correctly, I believe very firmly that fitness corresponds directly and precisely with happiness, well being, and a fulfilled spirit.
I don’t have a six-pack right now. In fact, my stomach is rotund and extended, and filled with a baby. I am, against all odds, 25 weeks pregnant with my second son, and my husband’s first baby.
I never thought this would happen, especially now as I hurtle into my late 30s. But I am overjoyed, and humming with anticipation. I was given another chance at love and life-giving, and my body is the strongest it’s ever been.
In my sixth month of pregnancy, I’m still hucking around (lighter) weights and doing burpees and sprinting up hills — within reason. I’m staying active throughout my pregnancy to keep sane, and also because I’m not done with my abs yet. I want them back three months after the baby arrives, and this blog will help keep me focused.
Bouncing Back will be about elasticity against the odds, and motivation in the face of the impossible. It’s about making exercise fun, eating clean and maximizing potential as a woman, mom, and human.
II want to be better and stronger every day and I think it’s easier than we think to do that. I’ll share inspirational stories about moms who defy odds, motivational tricks, and ways to achieve the best body you’ve had in your life now, after you’ve had those three kids. No painful backwards bathroom running is required. I can’t wait for you to join me.