Strength with Grace: Fitness Extinguished by Grief

by Natalie Utley

Everybody has daily struggles and concerns, everyone is dealing with some sort of grief that pangs their heart. I was thinking back on my own life experiences and how every time I was faced with a struggle I turned to fitness as a way to express my anxieties, to help my body breathe deep, expel the angst, and fix the issue. Those inner struggles equipped my workouts with determination and power. I could work through them, fight by pushing and pulling the weights. Those trials and conflicts translated well at the gym and fueled my workouts.

In contrast, when I was faced with grief, fitness was incredibly difficult to keep up with, I couldn’t keep the intensity level I was used to. I was sad, some days I’d have fits of tears, and often felt dazed. I would beat myself up during and after the gym for not training with the same fierceness I once had. I’d say I wasn’t doing good enough, or I could’ve done more. I was being an unforgiving jerk. I wasn’t allowing myself to mourn and I was making my situation worse by not being gentle with myself. 

   I began listening to how I was talking to myself and realized I needed to start changing my voice if I was going to work through the process of watching my father pass. I had to constantly remind myself about my heart and how tender it was, and it was okay to break. We can’t be at 100% all the time. I had to rest and be okay with that. Once I was able to show myself some compassion, the gym became a tool for relief. I didn’t drop the gym, I still made it a priority. I kept up at the gym, kept the pattern of going daily, I dropped my weight down, upped my repetitions, went through the motions and just worked on my inner voice. I eventually began enjoying the gym again without losing my passion or having to find motivation and start-up all over.

   My hope with this short column this month is that if you’re struggling with something that sits deeper in your heart that you’d listen to what you tell yourself. How you speak to yourself in all daily dealings. Your gym time and enthusiasm will return and when it does it will be easier to jump back into it if you keep it within your routine. We all need to speak kinder to ourselves. So give yourself a break and allow your heart heal while you still work through the motions and rhythms of the gym.