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My winter of "looking strong" and my spring of FEELING strong



As we transition officially from winter to spring today, I find myself reflecting on the personal winter that has dominated my life for the past three years.


Since the summer of 2021, my relationship with fitness has taken an intriguing turn. Aware that heat is now my enemy and exercise fatigue is a concerning symptom, I've had to dial back the intensity of my workouts, despite their increased importance to my health. Along the way, I've encountered some unintentionally backhanded comments from people. A friend's boyfriend once remarked on the "toughness" of my arms after a casual touch on my sweater, while another friend mentioned how I "used to set the bar." People would often refer to how I looked in the past tense, probably because I no longer fit their image of fitness.


Just last week, I achieved a milestone: my first time completing five weighted burpees in a row post-Dysautonomia diagnosis. It was a joyous moment, marking a significant breakthrough after years of struggling with even basic bodyweight burpees. Yet, this achievement also stripped away a facade I'd worn for a decade – the identity of being someone's "thinspiration" or "fitness goals." It revealed to me the true essence of strength, beyond mere physical appearance. It brought me to a place of embracing intrinsic fit-ness.


It's easy to appear strong and fit by following a regimen of cardio, weight training, HIIT, proper nutrition, and rest. But to truly feel strong is a different journey altogether. It entailed lamenting and letting go of a body that used to do 100 burpees in 5 minutes, convincing myself that all that will matter less and less as time goes by. It meant starting slow and small, not getting frustrated when things that used to be perfunctory now take effort and decision making. Feeling strong means appreciating my body so much more because, in the grand scheme of things, I still feel so blessed to be agile and adaptable. Feeling strong means understanding that just because I can do something doesn't mean I should. Most of all, it means doing what is best for me without factoring in how I should look like.


My husband and I work out at home, devoid of mirrors, creating a space where our achievements and struggles are ours alone. This allows us to focus on what truly matters – our personal growth and well-being without the external noise. 


I could never see then what I do now. I am finally surfacing from the hibernation of not feeling like myself. In a sense, I am embracing my own personal spring. I’m blossoming in unexpected ways, discovering facets of myself that surprise and inspire me. I remind myself frequently that I am still me, just an evolved version, with or without the lean muscle. Change is inevitable, and it brings richness to life. True growth and true strength, both externally and internally, occurs in discomfort, and for that, I am profoundly grateful.


Video: Oct 2014, post-Siesta Key triathlon. I lament these events less and less now but boy, were they fun!

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