Almost exactly one year ago I had to withdraw from the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K in Philadelphia because of a torn calf muscle. I was extremely disappointed because I had trained hard for the race, was looking forward to it, and the injury seemed to come out of nowhere. I immediately registered for the 2018 race hoping I’d be able to redeem myself. But then the wheels came off the wagon. On November 1, about six weeks after I withdrew from the race, my dad passed away unexpectedly on the heels of my mom passing away unexpectedly. Then a few months after that I started experiencing more lower back pain than usual. An MRI revealed four herniated discs in my lumbar spine. That happy news was followed by an injury to my right knee.
To say I was at a low point would be an understatement of biblical proportions, but I didn’t quit. Through physical therapy, the love and support of my sister and my friends, the powerful effects of Aynsley Kirshenbaum’s #sugarpurge, and the sheer force of will, I was able to jump rope the entire Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K this Saturday with my girlfriend, Heather, and my dear friend and Punk Rope co-conspirator, Shana. The runners and spectators were so gracious and encouraging. We’ve never been cheered on like that before even though we’ve been jumping 5Ks since 2009. I wanted to share this story because I believe we all have the ability to be resilient and bounce back from any misfortune. In the words of the late, great Jim Valvano, “Never ever give up!”
I’ve never been incarcerated, but I did work at the House of Detention for Men at Rikers Island as a Prison Legal Assistant from 1982 to 1983, immediately after graduating from college. It was the most challenging and eye-opening job I’ve ever held and it significantly altered my views about people behind bars. But this story is not about me or my beliefs. It’s about Missie (above left with Nero, a service dog who Missie helped to train). Missie has been incarcerated since 2010. She found us by way of her friend Lisa (above right with Missie) and is now a certified Punk Rope Instructor by virtue of completing our home study course and acing the multiple choice exam. I’m going to shut up now and let Missie do the talking. The following essay was written by Missie less than two weeks ago. We’ve reprinted it in its entirety. We wish her the best of luck.
I used to be a runner. I have no hard feelings toward running—the sport taught me about discipline and perseverance, friendship and community, joy and grief. It also introduced me to a feeling of freedom in a world where freedom is a word only whispered about.
I am currently incarcerated.
In 2010, I lost my worldly freedoms to incarceration. My life prior to prison looked good on the outside, but it wasn’t. I ended up making a terrible choice that placed me behind bars. At 30 years old, 255 pounds with poor physical health, I needed to make some changes. However, internally, I also needed repair and healing of the woman inside of me.
Running became a passion of mine, giving me a sense of internal freedom. As my physical body and physical health improved, I also gained the freedom to walk with self-confidence, self-reliance, and an unrelenting self-awareness. I gained the internal freedom to look at myself with unfaltering clarity, for better and for worse. And I began to heal.
As time passed behind bars, my passion for fitness expanded beyond running. I started taking yoga classes and I became interested in strength training. Ultimately in December of 2017 I became a certified fitness trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).
During my six months of testing my quest to expand my fitness pursuits and my journey towards internal freedom continued. And it continued with something I wasn’t very good at initially. I started to jump rope. The physical benefits (and challenges) of jump rope were apparent to me from the very beginning. The internal benefits have been shown to me along the way.
To push through the early (awkward) stages of jump rope, I practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And I still practice! It took some time to be comfortable, but eventually I began instructing a jump rope class at the institution.
I envisioned a jump rope class to be something different than the other classes offered at the institution. I wanted something challenging (!) and fun (!) and I wanted lots of sweating (!) and cheering (!) and laughing (!) and I wanted lots of joy (!) and dance music (!) and black lights (!). At 8am on Sundays I can say my jump rope class has it all but the black lights 🙂
Through instruction of this very-early-highly-energized-jump-rope class, I found the internal freedom to be whom I ultimately was created to be—a person who is humbly motivating, encouraging, and uplifting for others. A woman who quietly makes a difference, sometimes very small, but those small differences ripple outwards.
My journey with fitness over the past seven years has taught me that improving the quality of my life has subsequently improved the quality of others’ lives. And that the impact we make on others matters above anything else. Sure, the calorie burn of a workout and rope jumping interval times matter, but never above the joy and empowerment and degree of personal choice they bring. I have learned that fitness is a lifestyle and that freedom is a mindset and that both of these things are conscious choices, liberating choices, that move us forward from the things that hold us back.
I just got home from tabling at an LGBTQIA event for my new employer in Philly. I was slated to do a short fitness routine to close out the program and I was really excited to share my “brand” of fitness with the attendees. I planned on rolling out our infamous Punk Rope “Wizard of Oz” drill which features signature movements by the movie’s major characters, but the organizer thought the routine would be too “dangerous.” And by dangerous he really meant too “out there.” So instead, the DJ played a “line dance” tune, a bunch of folks got down and boogied, and the cultural divide was preserved, at least for now. I’ve been wracking my brains about why more people don’t try Punk Rope, Beast, or MoshFit, and I think it basically comes down to fear. Fear of looking like an idiot. Fear of messing up. Fear of doing something that is not accepted by your peers. Fear of being unconventional. And so on. If you guys can think of a way that we can make Punk Rope, Beast, and MoshFit less intimidating please let me know. It kills me to think that folks are shying away from these workouts because they’re afraid they won’t fit in or be accepted.
I’ve been following Leo Babauta’s Zen Habit blog for some time now. I highly recommend it. Consider subscribing. This post is adapted from Leo’s blog. Now here’s Leo:
I know a lot of people who fall into a slump, losing the habit of exercise.
It’s hard to get out of a slump like that.
It’s hard to get going again, to get started when all the forces of inertia are against you.
Here’s how to get started, in just a few easy steps.
Pick one thing. Pick just one change. People who want to change their lives usually want to change everything at once. But trust me, one change is enough for now: go for a short walk, do a few pushups, or start jumping rope. Just pick one change and focus on it for the next month.
Send a friend an email. Just a quick email, asking for help. Tell them you’ve been slumping, but you’re going to stick to one change. Ask them to keep you accountable — if you don’t do what you promise every day for a month, you owe them something big (or embarrassing). Make it something powerful, so you definitely won’t allow yourself to fail.
Promise to do something ridiculously easy. Tell your friend you’re going to do something every day — but something super easy. Again, go for a 5-minute walk. Do just a few pushups every morning. The easier the better. Again, trust me on this one. You want it so easy you can’t say no.
Create unmissable reminders. Put a huge sign somewhere you won’t miss it. Reminders in your email, calendar, phone, or on your fridge. Ask people around you to remind you. Put a rubber band around your wrist. Don’t let yourself forget!
Build trust with a single step. Every day, you just need to take one step. Just do one pushup or yoga pose. When you take that step, do it mindfully and with gratitude and joy. Smile. Enjoy that tiny victory. With that step, you’re building trust in yourself. When you see yourself want to put it off, pause. Breathe. Stay with the urge to run away but don’t let yourself run. Smile, and do the habit anyway.
With every single step, you’ll feel better. When you finish that step, take the next one. You’ll trust yourself more and more, and eventually you’ll be able to add another small habit, then another the month after. And soon you’ll be kicking butt, happy you’re moving in a good direction, smiling with gratitude with every good thing you’re doing for yourself.
It happens to all of us. We don’t want to get out of bed let alone go to the gym and work out or go for a run. Even a walk to the fridge might seem like a tall order. Recently one of my buddies had a bad case of the exercise blues and turned to her support network for a little encouragement. Here’s what some folks had to say:
“Find a pretty area and go for a walk. Listen to music while you do it. I got into photography when I was depressed, and walking around and taking pictures helped me get mobile and focus on something else.”
“A concrete goal will help, but you need accountability, too. Is there someone who will do a race with you?”
“Running with a friend helps. Sometimes it just means doing it even if you don’t want to. Some days I am getting my workout clothes on and saying I don’t wanna in my head. Just keep moving. Also I find first thing in the morning works for me best. Just get up and do it and then I get on with my day.”
“Redefine exercise! It can be 5 minutes, 3 minutes, or 1 minute. I get out of my exercise funk by doing something quick and easy…sprinting 100 meters, doing 20 push-ups, wrestling with a friend. I just try to start moving and get the blood flowing. That almost instantly elevates my mood. But if I tried to go out and run a mile I’d never do it.”
“When I’m down and just don’t give a fuck about anything much less working out, I’ll buy myself a new sports bra or running pants or some new running shoes if I’ve got the money. It kinda perks me up a little bit and makes me want to wear them. It at least gets the ball rolling for me.”
1) Don’t focus on the start of the workout:
The beginning might be painful, but the rest of it can be great, especially the feeling at the end.
2) Make a plan:
The more specific the better. Write it down. Post it on your fridge. Send yourself reminders on your phone. Anticipate how the plan can go awry and figure out in advance what adjustments you’ll need to make.
3) Make it a game:
You’re more likely to work out if it feels like you’re playing. Hmmm, sounds like Punk Rope!
4 ) Play the music you love:
Music motivates movement. Think about the last time you were at a wedding reception, but really wanted to be anywhere else. Then your favorite song came on and you tore up the dance floor.
5) Find a workout companion:
Misery loves company. Okay, seriously, if you exercise with a friend you’ll have accountability plus a buddy to push you and vice versa. Plus the more time you spend with people who are willing to exercise the more time you’ll be likely to exercise yourself.
6) Exercise is bliss:
When Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard studied 5000 people around the world ages 18-80 they found people were happiest during three activities: Socializing, exercise and sexy-time. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
This post is based on a blog post written by Eric Barker.
During my 7+ years of teaching Beastanetics, the one component of the program that has led to more anxiety than any other is the 400-meter run. Some of my students have been absolutely petrified that they couldn’t do it without stopping midway, or without vomiting (and a few have). But, over time, they’ve all been able to conquer the 400, and the amount of confidence that doing so has given them is astounding.
Researchers now believe that during vigorous aerobic exercise, the “anxiety-sensitive” person is forced to deal with many of the same symptoms that typically frighten him or her during periods of anxiety. These include a rapid heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing. Over time, the “anxiety-sensitive” individual who continues to exercise vigorously can learn that these symptoms of arousal are usually not dangerous. And the fear that these symptoms trigger will gradually diminish in intensity (Salmon, 2001). Southwick and Charney, authors of Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, found that the most resilient people had good exercise habits that kept their bodies, as well as their minds, strong.