It all started with a kayak

It was a fateful day in April when I had my fitness epiphany (I considered cramming the two words together to be clever, but fitphany doesn’t really sound all that inspiring or motivating. Now that I think of it, maybe it’s a word better suited to my embarrassing ‘aha’ moment). It was sunny and warm, which depending on how temperamental the weather is being, is unusual for April in Canada because even though we have four seasons, the stereotype about Canada being a cold, barren wasteland of snow came from somewhere.

I was at a friend’s house for a nature day, which typically involves wandering in the woods, spending time on the water, delicious food and the annual Christmas tree burning bonfire to end the day. She lives on Dog Lake which is wonderfully picturesque and makes me feel like a mole living underground in my basement apartment. We spent some time kayaking on the lake, a minor miracle given my lackluster swimming abilities and my unbridled fear of flipping the kayak, getting stuck in it and drowning in that picturesque lake, which oddly enough reminds me of a Margaret Atwood poem, “This Is a Photograph of Me.”

The experience was surprisingly pleasant until we got back to the dock…

I was told to plant my hands firmly on the dock. Check. Learn forward and support my weight with my arms before bending one knee in order to get out of the kayak. Check. Now use your upper body strength to push yourself out. I’m sorry, but what? No really, WHAT UPPER BODY STRENGTH? I was stuck half-in, half-out of the kayak, unable to dislodge my knee from the narrow opening of the kayak. I could not, for the life of me, lift my butt off the seat.

An irrational fear gripped me: I was going to be trapped in that kayak forever. Then I was miraculously being hauled out my my belt loops by one of my friends. Gut-busting laughter ensued, and it was hilarious, but it also occurred to me that if ever I was in a life-threatening situation that required me to pull myself up, like hanging from a cliff or pulling myself into a tree to escape a bear mauling (I don’t know if that’s actually what you’re supposed to do to escape a bear, I’m pretty sure bears can climb trees. They probably have excellent upper body strength.), I would absolutely die. No question.

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The figure lying prostrate on the deck? That’s me. Belt loops intact. Pride not so much.

I should preface the rest of my post by saying I am neither in love with my body, nor am I overly critical; I’m pretty apathetic. Coming in at a whopping 5’2″ and maintaining a steady weight of 140 pounds since putting on the Freshman 15 (more like 20 if we’re being honest), I’m okay with my appearance. I’m a little rounder and softer in places that some women are flat and toned, but I like to think that I look like a Renaissance goddess minus the very overtly sexualized male gaze.

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Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”

My health, on the other hand, is something I’m not very proud of. My office is on the third floor of a building which should be easy to walk up and down from without incident, but I find myself huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf in a fairy tale by the time I get to my desk (okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like someone who’s smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for twenty years). This is something I’m embarrassed about, so I joined a fitness boot camp led by one of the spin instructors at the studio I occasionally frequent but with no real sense of regularity or commitment because commitment. One of my  coworkers has done it for a while now and can’t say enough good things about it, so in my angst-ridden inability to decide which gym to sign up for and inevitably not attend, I bit the bullet and instead signed up for boot camp.

I may have overestimated by ability to withstand intense workouts. It’s six whole weeks of high intensity interval training (HIIT), circuits, sprints and suicides, jump squats, burpees, planks and plank touches, and a metal contraption made of children’s tears and nightmares, also knows as The Prowler.

After our first class on Monday, we finished stretching and went around the group and shared our ‘wins’. What was mine? I’m the consummate couch potato; I love sitting on my couch and watching movies or reading a good book, and when I decided to get in shape, I couldn’t just do it halfway. No, no, that would not do! I had to go 0 to 60. I’m in it to win it. No pain, no gain. <Insert another cliché here>

And now I’m paying for it. I’m three days in and I had to gracefully bow out (if I could actually bow or bend or move) of tonight’s HIIT workout because I CAN’T WALK. I have aching muscles that I didn’t even know I HAD. Everything hurts: my thighs, my calves, my butt, my ribs, my abdominal muscles and even my armpits (I have no idea what the fancy, technical name for these are, but they are my goddamn armpits and they hurt like hell). I hobbled around work like I had a stick shoved up my ass, many coworkers asked what was up and y’know what, I was proud to tell them I started a fitness program. I may not necessarily be proud that it only took two classes to nearly put me in the hospital, but I know it’s a big step in the right direction for a lifelong procrastinator and overall lazy person like myself.

I go to my parents’ house for dinner on Wednesday nights because I don’t like cooking, my mum is an excellent cook, and I can usually swipe some leftovers. My younger sister is home from university for the summer and she’s also made a plan to get fit this summer, though she is infinitely more dedicated than I am and has created her own workout plan. We were comparing war wounds (or rather, which exercises elicited the most discomfort and pain) which quickly dissolved into a ‘my horse is bigger than your horse’ competition because we’re just those kind of siblings. Cant live with ’em, can’t live without them.

I was sitting on the floor in the living room as I watched TV and hung out with Millie, my aged and adorable dachshund. Then it happened. I’ve made a terrible mistake, I thought. I couldn’t get off the floor. It’s the kayak all over again! It was that moment in Bridget Jones’s Diary when she imagines herself dying alone in her apartment, face down on the floor, being eaten by wild dogs. Love that film, which is basically an anthem for slightly overweight and out of shape women everywhere. Bonus: happy ending with the dreamy Mr. Darcy!

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Thankfully, this didn’t happen. Also, Millie would never eat me, at least I like to think she wouldn’t, but she’s a chunky monkey herself. I managed to get on my hands and knees, and crawled the two feet to the bar stool at the kitchen counter. I grabbed onto it, bracing myself for the stab of pain I would feel coming from my screaming, angry, resistant thighs (which, on Monday, I was 100% sure would Hulk flex bust out of my spandex with the eight million jump squats we did). I looked up. I made eye contact with Jamie.

“DON’T LOOK AT ME!” I said, half-serious, half-joking.

“You’re a beast!” she laughed.

“I’M HIDEOUS!” I laughed.

The fact we could both laugh at our fitness struggle made it that much more real for me. That was sibling love right there. Even though I have a supportive group of women at boot camp who are on their own fitness journey and are always ready to share their stories, it meant more to me that my sister, who looks freakishly similar to me and shares the same love of naps and yummy snacks, was going through similar difficulties.

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The one thing about fitness that many of the Instagram accounts and Facebook posts and YouTube videos overlook is that getting in shape and being healthy is not easy for everyone. Often, it requires lifestyle changes that, let’s face it, aren’t always exciting and they’re usually challenging. It’s so motivating to have someone to share my struggles with and know that I’m not alone in my attempt to get healthy.

We’re uncomfortable, even hurting, but we’re BAMFs getting our fitness on.

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