How Fitness Saved My Life and How it Can Save Yours Too
I recently came across a piece Maria Shriver wrote for her digital news column the Sunday Paper. In it she details a sudden overwhelming sense of grief that crept up as she reflected on the 10th anniversary of her mother's death. Shriver writes: "I thought I was done grieving my youth, my children moving out, past mistakes, unrequited loves, etc., but turns out, I wasn’t. I wasn’t done with grief, and it wasn’t done with me."
It started me thinking about the personal journeys we've all had and how a small expression of them can touch the reader or listener in significant ways. For instance, Shriver spoke on how she'd always thought her titles and accomplishments were what gave her esteem. But as she relaxed into her grief that day as she mourned the loss of her mother 10 years before, her cousins young daughter, and the loss of her marriage to Arnold Schwarzenegger which also felt like a death, she came to realize the bigger picture.
"I always thought if I wrote a best-selling book, if I was the anchor of a show, if I produced a documentary, then I would feel enough. I think that's what the American dream tells you, if you can achieve kind of professional success, you'll feel good. And actually the feeling good, the "enoughness," is within you. I believe it's within you by divine right."
So as I read her words written so boldly across the newspaper mock-up with poignant detail I reflected on my own journey to this point. And there's pieces I hold back from telling because why go through the whole story? But my life has also been touched by death. I did not have an easy transition into my formative years. Because I could not stop for death he stopped for me again, and again, and again. Were I a weaker spirit I would've gladly joined him on the last visit slipping away to booze, or pills, or other nefarious means. Instead, I found fitness and this is what I want to impart to you now: fitness saved my life and it can save yours too.
My outlet in the wave of grief was to turn to weight training, martial arts, and eventually a fitness competition I had no business getting involved in yet but I jumped in with both feet. In the wake of a failed attempt at success in competing I found an inner resolve that stayed with me and told me to keep going no matter what I was facing. Four years and five competitions later it changed me. I'd been a shy loner kid in school. You can imaging facing death one day and mocking school kids the next. So I stuck to myself most of the time.
Now as I sculpted my physique into an athletes frame I found my confidence, determination, and a handful of friends along the way. It also allowed me to channel the anger that comes with grief and leave it in sweat soaked puddles upon the floor of the weight room.
This became my religion. The gym was my church, I worship at the alter of iron because it works. I still find my refuge from the stressors of life by clanging and banging the weights. It is the one area in life where you have a modicum of control. So when life seems like it's spinning you into chaos you shut it all out and focus on your breathing. Your mind gets right and you feel empowered. Through break-ups, death, the loss of jobs, and a robbery I always turn to some form of exercise to keep me centered.
When actress Betty Gilpin signed onto do GLOW she found her power by embracing a physical side to her persona she normally shied away from. But when you're playing a professional wrestler you need to not only look the part but to be the part. The girls needed to learn how to move like wrestlers, pick each other up safely, land safely and it all came down to knowing their own physicality first.
The gym remains the place I go to find sanctuary and peace. It's helped me through some trying times so I've always wanted to inspire people to be passionate about fitness and how important it is for more than merely aesthetics. It's a stress reliever, an anti-depressant, and a confidence booster.
I'm living proof that sports and fitness can pull you out of even the darkest moments.
The gym is waiting. It never judges you and it's always there for you when you need it. Warriors wanted. Find your fit life.