Breakthrough’s mission is to help people build not just strength in body, but in mind, character and spirit as well. We’ve shared many stories over the years where our amazing members start getting physically stronger and as a result, begin to feel stronger and more confident in other areas of their lives. And although it’s sometimes harder to pinpoint, we’ve also experienced physical strength increasing with shifts in mindset. It’s the latter that I’m writing about today from the context of two things: Grace and Gratitude.
With Thanksgiving next week, gratitude is seasonally appropriate of course. Gratitude is something I’ve written about a lot, and something I teach quite a bit as well in our weekly yoga classes and in many special challenges we’ve done. But can gratitude actually help you improve your strength and fitness? Yes, and I’ll share some ways it’s helped me! But before I do I want to talk about grace, because sometimes grace has to come first.
Give Yourself Grace:
“I should have done something much sooner.”
“How did I let things go this far?”
“It’s my own fault for not taking better care of myself.”
“I used to be able to do so much and now look at me.”
These are all things I’ve said to myself frequently. I could go on, but you don’t need me to because I’m sure your brain is coming up with some statements of your own. I’m sure of it, because I’ve heard all of these and more from people getting started on their fitness journey, as well as people having set backs like I’ve recently been dealing with.
I shared an article a couple of months ago about my back injury, and some things I am doing to reduce pain and help myself recover. Something I didn’t share in that article, partially because it wasn’t as clear to me then, is how important giving myself grace is as I continue to heal. I recognize the initial injury was something that could happen to anyone, I take responsibility for making choices that led to it getting worse, and I give myself grace for making mistakes. I recognize that the me who deadlifted over double bodyweight and could do almost 150 kettlebell snatches without putting the bell down is an awesome lady, I take responsibility for trying to still be her when I shouldn’t have, and I give myself grace to become the strongest version of me I can in this moment.
I was carrying around so much baggage about what I used to be able to do, what I wanted to be able to do, and what it meant to be an injured fitness professional. Instead of this load building me up and making me stronger, it was crushing me. I was dreading training sessions instead of looking forward to them, and I was about to give up. Thankfully I gave myself grace instead, and amazing things started to happen.
From Grace to Gratitude:
As I talked about in my previous article, I started building my repertoire of things I could do that didn’t cause pain. It turns out there are actually tons of things I can include in my training program and make progress on. I started feeling grateful for being able to get through a training session without pain, which caused me to look forward to them again. This put me in the mindset to actually get stronger and challenge myself on the things that I can do rather than focusing on things I can’t/shouldn’t be doing.
Over the summer and early fall we started exploring hike ideas for our Adventure Team, often on the weekends with family members. I felt so grateful to be able to connect with people I love in this way. I felt so grateful to be able to do something pain-free that I couldn’t imagine my life without. Since gratitude is usually very present for me out on the trails, it’s no surprise that it was here that I also realized my regular gratitude practice had fallen off a bit.
For example, for many years my habit has been to start my day by connecting to three things I am thankful for. I never made a conscious choice to stop doing this, but at some point it was no longer happening. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t part of my routine anymore until I started to connect to gratitude again in other ways. I was so hung up on where I was before and how I could get back there, that I was missing what was in front of me. I was too busy beating myself up for my mistakes that I just kept making the same ones.
Fortunately this didn’t last too long, probably because actively practicing gratitude had been a habit for a long time prior to this. The discovery for me over the past few months has been that I had to give myself grace in order to reconnect with gratitude. The ripple affect of gratitude started helping me feel more excited about training, recognize that I have plenty of ways to keep myself strong and healthy, and most importantly that what I am doing in the gym is enough to support the things I want to do outside the gym. And frankly that’s what training is all about anyway!
At the end of September, Caleb and I took a trip to visit his family in Alberta and we spent a few days in Lake Louise. We had some ideas of long and exciting hikes we wanted to do, but since the most we had done at home was around 5 miles, I wasn’t sure how I would do. I wasn’t sure if my back would hold up, or if the training I had been doing would be enough to give me the strength and stamina I needed. As it happened, we were able to hike over 21 miles in a day and a half, and we were blessed with some of the most glorious views and weather we have ever experienced. And Caleb, who had been training like a beast in the gym before this trip, only had to slow down for me a couple of times when I had to have snacks for low blood sugar!
I gave myself the grace to let go of things that were no longer serving me. I allowed myself grace for my mistakes so that I could move on from them. Through grace I was able to reawaken a deeper gratitude, and I was rewarded with the experience of a lifetime. These are the things I wish for all of you this holiday season.
Strength and Love - Grace and Gratitude,