My ideal Summer camp would offer everything that brings me joy; writing, movement, and community in a beautiful outdoor setting. My day would begin by waking up in my yurt, tiny home or container home – without an alarm. Sitting beneath a canopy of trees while sipping hot cacao from my favorite mug, I’d pour my uncensored thoughts and emotions into my journal. Then I’d meet up with the rest of the single, middle-aged campers for Pilates Mat class which is the perfect warm-up for a day of aerial arts activities. This camp would attract the kinda Gen Xers that are unashamed of our super-hero fantasies and big kid energy.
I respond to criticism about my body by internalizing it. I wish I had a more evolved way to deflect the sucker punches to my ego. But since I was a young dancer, I’ve absorbed people’s words and accompanying body language like a sponge as they commented on my thighs, my complexion or whether or not I could ever become a dancer – because of my body. That whole “sticks & stones” concept is false. Words hurt. And the pain of them lingers in my subconscious, no matter how many times I rattle off “I’m rubber, you’re glue!”.
I show my body gratitude by knowing her love languages: quality time and physical touch. As a dancer I’ve had an intimate relationship with my body since I was 5yo. She’s always received my focused and undivided attention. I’ve spent most of my life partnering with her in the exploration of movement; allowing my body to experience its greatest capabilities and wildest dreams. Together we built a dance and aerial arts career; performing on sets and stages around the world. And because my body has so generously allowed me to indulge in my passions, I listen carefully to her needs.
My response to injury is instant frustration and the muttering of expletives because, more often than not, I believe I could’ve prevented it. The overuse injuries, that is. Not the sudden, acute injuries like when I was an aerial artist and someone flew into the back of my head giving me a concussion. But the times when I’d “go hard” and neglect regular body maintenance. Back in the day, I’d return to stage before healing 100%. For example, I’d secure my sprained ankles with tape; and then run, jump and stomp onstage, numbed by adrenaline and endorphins.
I don’t push through pain because I’ve done it enough to know that pain is a cautionary tale. In fact, the “No pain, no gain” mantra needs to disappear forever because it’s absolutely false. Pain usually means I’m doing too much, too fast, too soon and my body is about to go on strike. But in the past, while doped up on adrenaline, endorphins and youth, I’ve ignored all the pain signals that eventually landed me in the emergency room. Multiple times. And then I was relegated to rest and a boring regiment of PT exercises which really sucked as a professional dancer whose passions and income were wrapped up in my ability to perform.
Purpose-driven fitness is loving my body and loving myself. It’s sticking to a consistent exercise program that’s designed in alignment with my fitness goals, my current fitness level, and my learning style. But it also honors the way I love to move and feel in my body. It challenges my body enough to change it without injury. And each challenge teaches me about my ability to lean into awkwardness and self-doubt to discover what I’m capable of with consistency, time and effort. Purpose-driven fitness reveals my strength, tenacity, and resilience.