Sometimes it takes a new routine to find a new life balance
One year ago, I made a decision to push past my personal insecurities about self-image by going beyond my comfort zone and embarking on a fitness journey that entailed more than just a run on a treadmill or shedding a few pounds. This was a journey to learn how to better balance my emotions and finding mental clarity through fitness.
For years, I was too afraid to start and explore. I wanted to be a “yes” person — someone that said yes to health, to emotional stability, constant personal growth and inner peace. I no longer wanted to sit in my room after work and stare at YouTube videos and Instagram posts on how amazing a new workout was or trying to imagine the feeling. I wanted to BE the person that tried that new workout. I wanted to enjoy my workouts and feel excited about them, to try new classes, new techniques. I felt like my body could do more, that it was stronger than I thought.
In the beginning, I signed up for Yoga. I had never done this before and thought it would be more centering than exercising at the gym. But, as I continued to grow through life, I began to experience some struggles within my relationships and career that had made me angry, frustrated, and at times, worrisome. I suppressed the anger and frustration for a while, thinking that it would go away. I tried to stay intact with myself by focusing on my yoga and general workouts, but the problem was that I still felt stagnant and stressed. No matter how many journal entries I wrote about “my feelings” or how many times I vented to my friends, the stress and frustrations were bottling up inside me.
I soon realized that no matter how many meditation rituals I tried to master, I simply wanted to punch something.
Initial thought: I wasn’t a violent person and yoga was supposed to be my holy grail, right?
I sat in front of my computer at work complaining to my co-worker about how stressed and frustrated I felt. There were so many things happening within my life I knew I had no control over but had to push through anyway. She slowly turned around and said “sometimes you need to just punch something, maybe a punching bag?” I stared at her, still frustrated but in thought about what she said. Later, my colleague sent me a Groupon for Ilovekickboxing. “I don’t know how this works” she said, “but I am on your team and I think we should try it.” I immediately said yes.
Kickboxing was a different kind of animal for me.
I assumed that only men were in these classes or very fit and athletic women who came to work on their left hook and abs (side note: I did not have abs and probably never will because I like ice cream too much — and that’s okay). I went to my first Thursday class at 7:45pm in Greenwich Village, New York. I loved that Ilovekickboxing had such flexible class schedules because I always worked so late and let’s be honest, the city never sleeps and neither does my job apparently. The Ilovekickboxing crew was so welcoming. One of the instructors shadowed me in the first class, making sure I did things correctly to avoid any injuries.
After the first fifteen minutes of a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session to raise my heart rate and warm up (want to get your mind off something? Do a HIIT session, geesh!), I was ready to throw my first few punches. Before anything happened, one of the instructors turned around and said, “What are we angry at today?” I stared up at her. I didn’t expect for her to even care to ask, but she did.
My mind started pinpointing every single thing I was angry at.
Every emotion floated up to the surface. “I want you to punch this bag and don’t stop” she said. Yelling at the top of her lungs, music blasting, “All you need to do is breathe and punch” she yelled. So that’s what I did. I punched and reminded myself to breathe. I kept punching. I had never felt so angry, but at the same time so liberated, so strong, so in tune with my emotions. Every round of punching and kicking made me less angry, less frustrated and more focused, calmer.
When the last round was over, I sat on the mat and for the first time in a while, my mind was blank; I didn’t feel angry and IT FELT GOOD. As I continued to go back to the classes, I felt more and more powerful. A different kind of strong I hadn’t felt before. It had a lot to do with the group of instructors that empowered me every time I took a class. It was more than just a teaching session for them — it was therapy for everyone who was participating. We were free to talk about our feelings: how bad our day was or what significant other we wanted to beat up (shhhhh). After about three weeks, I noticed I had become less angry and I dealt with stress better.
I was more effective within my meditations, yoga classes and most of all, I felt, well…HAPPIER. An inside happy, as if my soul was smiling.
IloveKickBoxing made me feel like I was part of a tribe. A tribe that was always on my team. A tribe that I could be angry with, vulnerable with, laugh with, and most of all, a tribe that made me feel like I mattered. We get so lost in the shuffle at times that we forget that we need a bit of support, attention and understanding. Being a woman who was solely responsible for all the career and life moves for myself, it was sometimes hard to push past the loneliness, frustrations, and worry as I became more successful and outgrew many people within my life.
My kickboxing journey inspired me to go beyond the punches and kicks and form a support group called the ‘Love Tribe’ (AKA Project Love—Yourself), which gives others all over the world exactly what IloveKickBoxing gave to me: support, a judgement free zone, and inspiration — plus the feeling of knowing that someone will ALWAYS be on your team.
A Few Takeaways
- You will be sore.
- You will be sweaty.
- You will ask yourself a million times why you even came to the class, BUT at the end, you will be forever grateful to yourself and be amazed by what your body can do.
- You don’t have to be a violent person to want to punch something (and sometimes it’s EXACTLY what you need). Kickboxing is legal and you don’t get in trouble for punching something for an hour.
A support system matters and you can find one in a new setting and a new workout. Just be brave. Have courage to try new things and step out of your comfort zones.
BIG realization here: There isn’t just one way to find health, mental clarity or inner peace. There are thousands of ways. Every level of growth demands a different you, a different approach, a different realization, a punch, a kick or a yoga session (get the point?). At times, we come across emotions that are extremely powerful and struggles that take ahold of us. We may need something new to jumpstart the process of healing and awakening so that we can move forward into the next part of our journey. Through trial and error, we can find new ways that help us balance, well, life. Step outside the box. You owe yourself every possible invigorating experience you can find.
You may also enjoy reading Newbie Yoga: What to Expect at Your First Yoga Class, by Dasha Ilazarova