In my life, I have experience feeling "weak." I have long arms, long legs and I’m naturally lean. In high school, I had a friend who teased me, dubbing me "angel hair pasta arms" (an oddly specific insult for a high schooler!). I’ve recently started a goal setting challenge through my work to gain muscle mass. This started out as a challenge just to see what would happen, but it’s turned into something more than that. I’ve gained not only muscles, but also strength. I may be naturally lean, but I’m strong! My Nashville Story is about how I changed my body, and in doing so, changed how I view myself.
I started running competitively at age 12. After racking up some mediocre success in middle and high school cross-country and track, I went on to continue running long distances in college: distance trail runs, half-marathons, a few triathlons, and finally, the Philadelphia Marathon the year I graduated college.
When continual and persistent running injuries made running long distances no longer enjoyable, I found a home at Shakti Power Yoga after they opened their doors in 2012. I found community, healing, and empowerment in the power vinyasa practice. I loved the excitement of breakthroughs every few months as suddenly my body was capable of things I had formerly scoffed at. However, throughout this whole time--as a runner and then a yogi--I believed a lie.
I believed the lie that, despite the fact that I could balance on my head and run long distances, I was weak.
Throughout high school and my 20s, I dabbled with the ideas of "lifting weights" or "gaining muscle," but other than some halfhearted attempts to lift 10 pound dumbbells as cross-training for a half-marathon, I didn't really think it was possible for me. I felt completely out of place anytime I walked into a gym. I had a constant and irrational fear that if I began lifting weights, one of the beefy guys around me would walk over and tell me I was doing something wrong.
So, I put aside the idea of gaining muscle for about 15 years--until this past January. At the encouragement of a goal setting program through my workplace, with the enticement of a cash reward for those who met there goals, I set my goals to finally--once and for all--gain muscle mass and strength.
Here's what I've found since then: it feels good to feel strong.
It feels good to finally feel at home in a gym full of weights. It feels good to finally eat to fuel my muscles, rather than trying to eat as little as possible to ward off hunger, but never actually feel full. It feels good to take up space in the world, instead of always trying to be thinner, smaller, and less of a person.
I think women sometimes get the idea in our head, like I did, that by being small and fragile we are being more feminine. With my new muscle gaining goal this January, I finally had to let those insecurities go, and by doing so, I feel incredibly feminine. And strong. All at the same time.
Let's stop being afraid to fuel our bodies. Let's stop being afraid to lift heavy things, and to take up space. You are strong--and it feels so good to finally realize that (in every sense of the word!).
Alex is a yoga teacher and also teaches at GetFit615 in Nashville. She is so excited to bring her incredible knowledge of yoga into the fitness and weightlifting world and perhaps help bridge the gap between the two! She wants her students to learn that it's all a practice. Love is a practice. Yoga is a practice. And HIIT training is a practice. You can always get better. And you can ALWAYS get stronger!
My goal--for myself in this challenge--and as a teacher at GetFit615 and Shakti--is to help myself and my students get out of their heads, and step away from our ideas of what we should look like, and instead focus on what our bodies are capable of. By doing so, I've found my strongest and happiest self, and this is my hope and goal for everyone who shares in this beautiful space at 65 Music Square East. - Alex