I’m extremely excited to be able to share another Finding Your Why post, this time from a woman with whom I’m rather close – she is, in fact, my best friend. I’ve been bugging my stunning wife Crissie to write up her Why for a long time, and she finally gave in. Check out her awesome story below.
EXERCISE AND I HAVE HAD A FICKLE RELATIONSHIP…
You see, my mom would tell you that I learned to walk with a soccer ball on my foot. I’m the youngest of four soccer players. When it came to soccer in our family, my dad was our coach, my older siblings were assistant coaches, and my mom was the manager. When I was five, I got to watch my oldest sister, along with the rest of the Rochester Adams High School soccer team, win the state championship.
[Left to Right] Melissa, Ricky, Tammi (kicker for Michigan State University’s rugby team), and me.
Soccer was big in our family. Working hard was also big and never giving up was everything.
After my family moved to the Chicago suburbs and three tryouts later, I made one of the best soccer teams in the state of Illinois. These girls were amazing. They were strong, skilled, and so fast. I knew I could barely keep up, but I believed that if I never gave up I would get there.
It wasn’t long before the coach started getting annoyed with me. I was too tall and way too skinny. It was clear that I wasn’t strong enough, skilled enough, and definitely not fast enough.
One gray Chicago day, our team was downtown playing on the beach. I was having a great practice and I was hoping the coach would finally notice. I knew he was looking to cut some girls and I knew that I was one of them. I loved playing with this team. They had become some of my best friends. I had to work harder.
On that gray day suddenly my leg began to hurt. I struggled to walk on the sand. The pain caused my eyes to sting with tears, so I sat out and the coach rolled his eyes.
I stayed off of it for maybe a week thinking that I had just strained it. I was surprised when it still hurt as we ran 100 meter sprints. It slowed me down and the coach noticed.
When tryouts came around months later my leg had healed. However, it didn’t matter how well I did. In my coaches mind he had cut me earlier that year. When the call came and he told me I was no longer apart of the team, I was devastated.
It was around that time a friend pointed out what can only be described as a divot in my right leg-the same leg I had hurt last season. Turns out I hadn’t just strained or pulled a muscle. I had ruptured a part of my quadriceps, and now that muscle had atrophied. It was gone.
I continued to play soccer but on a less competitive level. An interesting thing happened: instead of pushing I started to back off.
I was scared. I was embarrassed. I had given up so much for a team and a coach. I had pushed too far and now I had nothing.
A few years later, I was recruited to play soccer at Spring Arbor University. The coach believed he could beef me up and use me as a relief player.
I knew I wasn’t strong enough, fast enough, or skilled enough. But I wanted to make an impact. So I found another way. I played smart and I learned ways to beat the bigger and faster defenders we played against.
My coach would brag, “she isn’t fast, she isn’t strong, and she isn’t the most skilled player we have…but she’s one of our leading goal scorers.”
I remember being proud because I had found another way. I also remember my stomach clenching every time he said it because oh man, I really wished I was stronger.
When the whistle blew on my final game it was bittersweet. I would miss it for sure, but I was so tired of being weak. I walked off that field promising that I would never again exercise unless I truly wanted to. I was so burned out.
Years passed, I got married and a couple of years later I was pregnant. My workouts during that first pregnancy included parking in the back of the parking lot and walking from there.
I was so surprised when the baby weight didn’t just fall off. When our daughter turned nine months old, I decided something had to change.
We had just moved to Grand Blanc, Michigan when Seth started his Doctoral program. I found Prana Yoga Center and decided to try yoga. I was so excited. No one knew my family, no one knew my soccer statistics. There was no pressure.
After a couple of classes, Jen (the owner) and I were talking and she commented on how tall and strong I was, just like her. I was blown away. No coach or teacher had ever called me strong. I went home and told Seth,
Me: Jen told me I was strong.
Seth: You are strong.
Me: But not like really strong…
Seth: No, you ARE really strong.
Me: Like really strong, like strong-strong?
Through yoga I found a way to push myself again. Through Jen’s help I found my edge. Joel Kramer in his article Yoga as Self-Transformation has this to say about the edge:
This edge is a feeling of intensity, and is right before pain, but it is not pain itself. The edge moves from day to day and from breath to breath. It does not always move forward; sometimes it retreats. Part of learning how to do yoga is learning how to surrender to this edge, so that when it changes you move with the change
— Joel Kramer
I HAD NEVER KNOWN MY EDGE OR HOW STRONG I REALLY WAS UNTIL YOGA.
SO WHY DO I EXERCISE?
BECAUSE IT SHOWS ME, REMINDS ME, THAT I AM STRONG. IT GIVES ME ROOM TO FAIL, TO FALL, AND GET BACK UP. THERE IS A FREEDOM ON MY MAT, A FREEDOM TO MOVE, AND A FREEDOM TO HONOR MY BODY WHERE IT’S AT.
At its core, yoga is a process that involves confronting your limits and transcending them.
— Joel Kramer
Summer of 2013, during my RYT200 Yoga teacher training