A Valentine’s Letter for Fitness Enthusiasts

Here’s my Valentine’s Day letter to everyone caught in the rush of things

Hi there.

I’m writing this letter to you as I listen to Taylor Swift’s re-release of her iconic ‘Love Story’. It’s a song I listened to when I was young and nurtured daydreams of this overwhelming love that I would believe can surmount any challenge. This love, I just as foolishly dreamed, can even fill any lack I see within myself. A love that I realize is a mistake after many failed attempts at rushing into things that I thought were good for me.

Even if you’re not a fan of Ms. Productive During Quarantine, I would like to believe you would have some inkling of how that feels, and so would have something to benefit from reading what I would like to tell you right now. Especially because you’re someone who is used to – even a bit obsessed with – always moving around, running, lifting weights, etcetera.

Long-winded introductions aside, allow me now to implore you to take it slow. Take a pause. Take a moment to truly be present. Take time and not hurry into trying to become what we exhaust ourselves daily to be. I know that after a pandemic that seemed to have left us suspended in limbo, that sounds like the last thing you would want to do.

But my reason for asking this of you is really very simple and it has a lot to do with one complexity that many of us – careful with our health as we are – tend to forget. It’s something we often have an awareness of and may even be the motivation you have for lifting those irons every day. As we start out, this concept feels as if it’s branded in our memory, but not any less invulnerable to being forgotten when we hope for more and bigger progress.

What I’m talking about, my friend, is self-love.

A story of a run-away

Let me take a moment to tell you a quick story about a girl who went through a rough patch earlier in 2020. A girl who, in a muddle of anxious thoughts about having lost a job she loved at the height of a terrible pandemic, attempted to mask her pain with, you guessed it, working out her body broken.

Girl with muscle tape
Muscles taped up and waiting for therapy.

This girl’s day would usually start with a coffee in the morning, just like everyone else who pushes themselves off their beds at the break of dawn to run. She drank this coffee, depending on it to keep herself up because of a pain in her shoulder so sharp it stole sleep away from her every night.

Emotional pain has this stubborn way of teaching you to confront it rather than run away from it.

This pain was no sudden thing. It was the product of her months-long obsession with working out every single day, barely allowing her body to rest. Because at the time, she forgot her true motivations for doing these workouts. Instead of doing them because she loves herself and honors this earthly form of hers, she did them to punish it for previous failures. She had rushed to get ahead of her pain thinking that if she tired herself enough, kept moving so much she didn’t have time to think, that her emotional pain would go away.

The lessons of that story, I would like to share with you below before you make the same mistakes she did.

Be patient and take it slow

Emotional pain has this stubborn way of teaching you to confront it rather than run away from it.

In my case, working out my frustrations and anxieties away in the way I did, caused me to become unable to do the exercises I loved doing so much. It stomped on the brakes of my thoughtless labor to shove my feelings somewhere deep and hidden, never to come into the light as part of my truth. But in this full-stop I found myself in, there was no ignoring the feelings festering in me, breaking me physically and mentally.

Related read: 7 Things you can do if you’re not feeling well… (Mentally)

Therapy session
Thank you endlessly to the patient therapists at PACE Prehab and Recovery for getting me back on my feet in just a few short sessions of therapy.

In the quiet, I found myself facing my emotions and how they were affecting my perception of the workouts I do, how they affect my body, and why I’ve been doing them. I had come to terms with the observations of people who care for me; that I was identifying myself entirely with the work I do and my productivity that, when I lost it all, I fell into an identity crisis. A deep emptiness I tried to compensate by working out too much.

Self-hate can come in many forms and for me, this time, it was masked as daily workout challenges, weights too heavy for me, hours-long workouts without resting; convincing people and myself that I was doing this to take care of my body.

For these mistakes of yesterday, I forgive myself, just like I had to forgive myself for other self-destructive patterns when I was young, and those I will assimilate when I’m well into my gray days. Because it’s likely that I will take a misstep again. After all, life has so many twists and turns, and this journey of fitness that is rooted in love for yourself isn’t a straightforward one. Sometimes you’re on a high, sometimes you’re down and eating dirt.

Take it easy. Take it slow. Be patient with yourself, above all.

Related read: Best Fitness Habits to Build this 2021

A slow, non-linear journey

I have no idea where you are on this journey. But wherever you are, I hope you always remember that this skill of forgiving yourself is valuable to it. Be patient with yourself, because this journey of self-love can take a backslide just like mine did. Here, you must take a moment to stop and be quiet. Reinspect your internal compass and your goals, realign with yourself. This will help you find the way forward again.

Or for you, perhaps it’s taking a turn to somewhere you didn’t expect it to take you. Here, maybe your self-care needs change; where once something that gave you a lot of comfort and excitement suddenly doesn’t anymore. Change it to what suits you better. You may feel bad about giving up something you loved for a while and it’s okay. Take your time to go through those feelings. In time, the hurt will disappear as you slowly learn to fall in love with this new path fate set you on.

But it also leads forward and continues on smoothly for a while. Then, maybe you’ll hit a fork in the road too tricky to take or a hill too steep to climb alone. You wait or seek for a companion in whatever form they come. Is it a friend? Or maybe a lover? Whoever they are, welcome them.

Final thoughts

No matter the turns and twists of fate, I hope that today you are closer to loving yourself more and more. That is genuinely my wish for you this Valentine’s Day. You are such an amazing being as you are now who is deserving of love from yourself, above all others. 

Cherish yourself. Honor yourself. Love yourself.

Happy Valentine’s Day, PF Community. I hope this gave you comfort today. If you know anyone who would probably gain comfort from this, well…sharing is caring, after all. :)

Sending you much love and light,

Ming

P.S.

Today, I woke up and am now drinking coffee because I enjoy it, not because a sharp pain kept me up all night. Today, I’ll lace up my shoes because I love the breeze that brushes my skin when I run. Today, I’ll probably even do yoga because I honor and love this body enough to allow it to rest. Today, I take time to take care of myself because I wholeheartedly love myself.

I end this while listening to a whole play-through of BTS’ album compilation ‘Love Yourself: Answer’, and I have to laugh and thank them for the pick-me-up and the reminder that this is the most important love of all.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful, thank you for this. Cheers to forgiveness, healing and working out because we love our bodies and not hate it❤️

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