Tag Archives: fitness

My Love and Hate Relationship with the Barre

My hands grip the barre until my knuckles start to pale; my rings dig into my fingers from the pressure. I am clinging to the slender wood for dear life as my entire body threatens to tremble into a puddle on the thin carpet.

“Rise onto your highest pair of heels, and sink you seat an inch lower,” the instructor says as she paces methodically around the room. Her tone is soothing, yet her words abrate my mind as my muscles beg me to stop in an ascending burn.

I roll onto my toes, pressing and arching my foot until I feel my calf muscle ball up behind the back of my knee. As I ease my hips lower, awkwardly squatting above my elevated heels, my legs behind to vibrate. It’s a subtle tremble at first, just a quiver on the edge of my skin, sending waves through the acid beginning to team on my muscles. I breathe through pursed lips and hold tighter to the barre.

“Now tuck to tempo. Tuck, tuck, tuck.”

I dig deep and gather the muscles of my abdomen in towards my spine, tilting my pelvis up into my torso. The muscles that still feel so distended from two babies. With each tuck, fire licks the tops of my thighs. My heels press against each other, desperate to stay lifted. I feel the weakness trickle down, pouring over my legs down into my perched toes.

“Lower your hips down an inch, up an inch. Little down, little up.”

My muscles practically cackle at her words they sound so outrageous. Didn’t she mean lower your heels and lock your knees? Stand like a normal, relaxed person?

I close my eyes and breathe more purposefully. I do not look in the mirror. I do not want to see the sweaty tomato of my face while my reflection wants to give up so deeply. 

“This is your last change,” she says.

Hope blossoms across my chest. I can do this. It has to be less than a minute left.

A minute of burning hell on my legs.

I lower and lift my hips against the objections of my flesh. I make the small, controlled motions even though my nerves send relentless messages indicating they cannot comply. My body moves just the same. With each lower, the shake seizes me. My heels wobble and smack together; my knees knock and tremble. I can feel the vibrations rolling up my body in waves all the way to my cheeks.

“Final 10 strong. 1, 2, 3, 4…”

The countdown inspires me. Only 10 tiny movements left. I clutch the barre harder, close my eyes tighter, focus only on her count. I drop my seat lower, tuck my hips harder. My entire body is a mess of quivering fire.

” 9 and 10.”

I made it. I lock my knees and bask in the pleasant rush of the acid receding from my muscles. I breathe out relief as the heat stops flaring beneath my face.

Then I feel it, somewhere between the endorphins and the accomplishment–the high. The pain in my body evolves into euphoria, and my mind climbs somewhere both level and calm.

 

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I believe I can safely say that I have reached addiction level with my affair with Pure Barre.

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That is what I do, after all: become addicted to things. Substances, activities, people, places. My mind will turn about anything into a drug. I live in extremes and chases excesses. If a little is good, more must be better, and a lethal dose is probably where I’ll end up.

Hence the attempt to shift addictions to “healthy” outlets. But I digress…

I started trying barre classes because an acquaintance of mine had started teaching classes and was posting about it. I was mired in my obsession to recover from my son and was trying any and all fitness options available, so I gave it a shot.

The first class absolutely annihilated me. I could scarcely perform the exercises included, and I was sore like I potentially never have been. And I rarely get sore anyway.

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I enjoyed the class, felt deeply intrigued by the challenge; however, I was married to my gym and the full schedule of classes I committed to every week. I could not afford the extra expense and more the extra time without provided child care. So barre became an occasional flirtation, once a month or so.

At some point, I started going more frequently. Perhaps when my son’s school schedule changed and gave me more unencumbered time. Then I purchased a deal on classes without actually reading the fine print. When my unused classes were about to expire, the studio owner was gracious enough to give me an extension, into which I stuffed every class I could make.

Boom. Addiction.

I actually injured my hamstring doing barre stretches. After a dance class, I was moving gently through the thigh stretch sequence. When I came down easily into the splits (which was a celebrated accomplishment), something popped, and five months later, I am still recovering. Ironically enough, the activity that injured me also seems to the best suited to my injury. With its minute, controlled movements, barre  is the perfect exercise to strengthen my hamstring without straining it further.

It is as if the class itself has trapped me.

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Now, I am a 2-3 classes a week attendee whenever I can support it. With my obsessive commitment, it is pretty often though children and work are known to pop up in the way. Barre even has me convinced me to abandon the gym, shifting to only barre, belly dance, and running. Once I found a piece of dance to complete my heart, I was sold.

I LOVE and HATE Pure Barre classes, potentially equally, definitely simultaneously.

The classes themselves make me uncomfortable. Yes, I am a dancer; I was a belly dancer for eight years and still pursued hauntings of that with zumba and hip hop classes. However, that is all VERY different from ballet. The only ballet I have experienced is watching my daughter’s classes. I had the benefit of knowing how to tuck my hips, but the form and movements are all completely divergent. It throws my body out of its comfort zone, challenges its muscle memory and ingrained positions.

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Yet, beyond the physical fluency, I do not look like a ballerina. The instructors and the majority of the students look like they came up on the barre, long, lean, and svelte. I am a thicker girl with curves and things that shake when I shimmy. Never do I look larger than in a classroom full of these slender former dancers. And that unavoidable comparison tickles every tingle of body dysmorphia I have. Hating myself in a barre class mirror is what pushed me back to counting calories (which I thankfully have dropped again).

This discomfort is part of the reason I keep going back. Yes, I am a masochist at heart, but it is also the challenge that seduces me. I want to feel like I overcame the weakness of my flesh; I want to feel like I made progress battling back the crazy in my mind.

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Physically, I am enticed by not being good at it, by it always being hard no matter how much I improve. Like running, regardless of how much I train or how I often I do it, I am not able to coast. I coasted through my entire youth; I don’t want that anymore. If I somehow master one routine, it changes to a new one that wreaks havoc on my muscles. And I’m a sucker for the pain of it.

And it hurts. So much. The class is literally painful. You would think such tiny movements would be easy. Absolutely not. My muscles are on fire and trembling the entire class. I can feel tidal waves of acid blaze over my nerves. My knuckles go white clinging to that barre for dear life. I sweat as much as I do in high cardio. It hurts. Yet on the flip side of that pain is the rush after, the high, the euphoria. Which is ultimately what I am always physically chasing. Which I why I am so addicted to running.

As much as it pains me physically, the true challenge for me is mental, emotional. That goddamn echo of an eating disorder I can’t seem to shake. Mentally, I refuse to be controlled my own insecurities. I will not allow my misguided, shallow fixations and comparisons to prevent me from doing anything. I may feel gigantic and weak in these classes, out of place and incongruent with all the other participants, but that is why I have to keep going. Not to work my way into fitting in but to make myself become comfortable standing out. I will learn to love and accept myself one way or another. If I can wrangle bipolar, body distortion should be downhill from here. Even if I have to sit with my own self-loathing beating at my chest and a swarm of inappropriate comparisons buzzing in my brain for 100 classes. I will not limit myself.

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And with each class, it gets better. I feel more at home in the class; I feel more comfortable in my skin. I am wearing myself down, dulling my sensitivities, making it part of my normal. If I can accomplish that, it would be far more valuable than getting to a certain size or weight.

So I love and hate the physical challenge. I hate and need the mental challenge. The results… I just love.

My son is over two now. I have been literally beating myself up for two years trying to recover from him. Between thyroid issues and injuries, diets and different classes, nothing really worked. Or maybe did not work fast enough for me. Either way. Yet, with the recent burst of barre classes, I not only notice a different in the performance of my muscles, I actually physically see the different on my body. I think all the cross training is why my running pace continues to improve though my injury does not and training has not happened at all.

Most of all, these classes are doing amazing things for my ass (or “seat,” as they call it). It is at a height and shape it has never been in my life. My waistline, or saddlebags if you will, are also trimming way down. My back is tightening up. Muscles are starting to bulge out of my flexed quads and calves like they did when I played soccer in high school. My body is not perfect, not where the crazy part of my mind demands it be, but I am seeing the positive results. The more I see, the more fervently I devote to the classes.

So I’m in it, maybe all in it, working harder at quelling my self-abuse and finding a real acceptance for my body than anything else. If barre is the tool I need and makes my body healthier in the process, all the better. I’ll be there, obsessively shaking at the barre.

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And just to up the ante, I am also doing the Whole30 challenge as part of my new commitment to the barre. Not to lose weight, not to starve myself but because my body needs the detox and the reset. And because it does not allow any weighing or measuring. I am going all in, striving to find my strength and my balance.

setthebarre

Christina Bergling

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facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
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savagescoverchristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

thewaning_coverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

collectedchristmas_cover

Collected Christmas

Some of the best voices in horror fiction decided to band together and tell you some tales about a different kind of Christmas.

Available now on Amazon!

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Resolutions

Ah, the new year. An arbitrary revolution of the calendar that gives us the illusion or the excuse at a fresh start.

I have made many resolutions over the years, mostly of the extreme or self-loathing variety. Not all of them are precipitated by the new year; that just presents a convenient excuse to brand intention into my brain. Over the course of my “fitness journey” (read: whole damn life), I have made countless goals and resolutions. And each time I fail at them or they turn on me, I tell myself that I have learned from them; that I will get it right next time. Yet, instead, I seem to find a new way of getting it wrong, another unique way of pushing it too far and perverting the intention to masochistic proportions.

So I am accepting this quirk in my pathology, this extremist tendency of mine. I am acknowledging and embracing it. I am changing my resolution paradigm. Instead, I am going to keep it simple. My goal, my new year’s resolution as it were is: BALANCE.

That’s it. Balance.

(Potentially the hardest thing ever for me, by the way.)

I want to find the compromise between a hardcore diet and binging on food. I want to exercise from a place of health, loving my body, and enjoying the activity rather than to punish my body. I want to find a way to pursue my goals while also appreciating where I am.

Balance.

I think this idea has become especially important as I recently decided to return to therapy. I have not worked with a therapist since I was pregnant and post-partum with my daughter, over 5 years ago. Yet, I very lately plunged into a bought of body dysmorphia so strong, so persistent, so pervasive that I felt compelled to reestablish a clinical lifeline.

Generally, when I am managing my crazy, I can diffuse distorted thoughts by analyzing them, dismantling them, and applying logic. It may not necessarily cure or alleviate the feelings, but generally, it brings me back to perspective enough to ride it out while preventing behavioral consequences. In this particular round, nothing had any impact on the thoughts. I could tell myself that it was physically impossible to gain any significant amount of weight overnight, yet I just continued to obsess, fixate, hate myself, plan how I would punish myself.

It was alarming enough for me to decide to do something different. It has been over two years of unhealthy obsession disguised as health and recovery. I need to break the cycle and actually create balance in my mind more than anywhere else.

I am also changing my fitness regime with the new year. After two years of being devotedly dedicated to the gym, I am dropping my membership. My favorite zumba teacher left. They dropped the hip hop class I enjoyed. I went from attending 6+ times a week to maybe 2. It is simply not worth the investment. Plus, it is time to spice things up.

In the spirit of enjoyment over punishment, I am trading the gym to return to belly dance. I am also diving into my new barre addiction. And, hamstring willing, I want to get back to more running.

I guess my new year’s resolution is to have no resolution, to learn to let go. To find my balance.


Back on the Slopes

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I have been following in my father’s ski tracks my entire life. Not much has changed. My father put me on skies when I was three years-old; then I spent winter mornings in ski school until I was able to ski blue runs fluently.

So many ski trips are burned into my memory. Packing up before dawn and heading out toward the mountains. A pack of licorice and the ski cassette tape of classic rock, so used that it began to unravel. Aching ankles, sore legs, and full body chills into the nap on the way home.

I haven’t skied in YEARS. The last time I attempted to ski, I never even saw the slopes. I was pregnant with my (now two year-old) son and had debilitating morning sickness. I puked the entire drive up to the resort, on the side of the road in heavy Denver traffic. Then I spent the day vomiting in the lodge. The entire day. I passed out on the table then stumbled into the bathroom to lose the sips of water I had taken. The sickness, puking, and cramps were so serious that I was honestly concerned I was going to lose my baby.

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This time, I brought my five year-old daughter for her first time skiing, and, just like my father before me, I deposited her in ski school in the morning. Establishing and continuing family traditions.

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The day did not start out well for me. After my daughter was all squared away and I launched off with my father and sister, I found my ski boots very uncomfortable. I had them before my two children and apparently my feet changed substantially in that time. When I wrestled all the bindings closed, they pressed on my ankle in some way that was just excruciating. My toes went numb; it felt like the side of my foot was tearing.

I tried to power through. I told myself to breathe through it. I told myself it would loosen with time. I popped a couple bindings. Yet, on the lift, I had to counsel myself out of how much it hurt.

On the first run down, I found skiing to be very difficult, harder than I really remembered. I wobbled. I was slow and cautious. It was just unpleasant. I did not feel like myself at all. I thought perhaps it had been too long and I had forgotten my technique over the years. By the bottom, I decided to just go rent new boots.

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New boots were like a whole new world. Without the pain, everything became easy again; muscle memory returned. My mind even cleared and returned. After months of dealing with the constant hamstring pain, I simply could not process additional pain signals; I could not deal. Yet without the pain, skiing was awesome again! Even with my gimpy hamstring, I blazed down after my family, carving around moguls and bouncing over powder.

I forgot how good it felt to whip down a mountain, to hear the snow compacting under me, to feel the flakes in the winter air on my face. I felt that familiar euphoria and remember why I loved it so much.

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We laid down some good runs in the morning. The Loveland win bit hard on the high lifts, but otherwise, we rode the mountain under clear skies and high sun. The hamstring only balked when carving through ice or deep powder and only when turning left when I really had to lean down into that left leg.

We took lunch and then back to the slopes. Somewhere in the afternoon, we accidentally ended up on a black run. Black runs are not out of any of our ability; however, with my father’s spinal stenosis and disk cyst and my 5 months injured hamstring, it was not in our plan for the day (I wonder where I get my tendency to ignore pain and do whatever I want in spite of my body). We all survived, but the run pretty much winded down our day.

We migrated from the Basin back to the Valley to have some drinks waiting for my daughter to be done with ski school. I was curious to see how she did, but she loved it and did fantastic.

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We took her on one final run to end the day. She did so well. I was impressed at her ability after one short day and amazingly proud of her. For a child who often whines and attempts to get people to do things for her, she was calm and determined and brave, even after 5 hours of ski school. She wanted to keep going; she outlasted the adults.

In the end, it was a great day. Plenty of exercise that reminded me of why I love the sport and another opportunity to introduce my daughter to an activity I enjoy. It will definitely not be years before I return to the slopes.

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Jingle Bell 5K

It is that time of year again: the time to freeze our bells off running a 5K in the variable Colorado winter weather.

On the morning of the Jingle Bell 5K, I woke up feeling rather awful. My head was splitting; my stomach wound in agitated knots. I felt hungover without the benefit of getting drunk the night before. I also dressed for a balmy 40-50 degree run and was instead greeted by a penetrating frosty bite on the air.

In short, I was simply not feeling it.

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My daughter and I began with a visit to Santa, where I asked for a healed hamstring for Christmas. Then the kids’ race was first. My daughter again asked to run without me, which left me feeling some combination of proud and a little hurt. I know she ultimately does not want me to run with her because I push her, don’t let her stop, don’t indulge her crying. Maybe I’m too hard on a 5 year-old.

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But she does great without me. Without me, she ran the full distance at a good pace. Maybe I bring out the whiner in her.

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After the kids were whisked away to the warmth by grandparents, Trisha and I settled in to run our race. We decided to just stick together and just run. No striving, no PRs, just running.

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And we just ran. We chatted about nothing. We watched a fight ensue over headphones versus stroller running (like really? Merry Christmas, guys). I didn’t think about pace or if my muscles were burning or if I could breathe right or if I was keeping up with other runners. I didn’t think.

I floated the majority of the first half. Just floated right along, which is extremely strange for me in the opening mile. A little exertion warmed me right up, and I was shedding layers in no time. My hamstring had ached in the morning yet felt better on the run. It would balk from time to time, twinge at a certain stride, yet overall, it hurt less to be running.

We ended up laying down a great race. At the Great Pumpkin 5K (October), I ran a 37 minute 5K. At the Turkey Trot 5K (November), I ran a 35 minute 5K. At this Jingle Bell 5K, we did a 34 minute 5K. So, even though my injury persists and my running regiment has gone to hell, my pace is steadily improving. Perhaps thanks to all the cross training. Whatever it is, I will take it!

(Also, turns out the Great Pumpkin was also my 50th race; that happened when I wasn’t paying attention.)

I was extremely pleased with the run overall. Our time turned out awesome, but it did not even really matter. It was running with a friend for the sake of running, and the simplicity was so enjoyable after so many months of over critiquing myself.

It felt free.

 

**Hamstring update**

I finally folded and went to the doctor for my hamstring. These near five months later. The pain had escalated to the point that it hurt to sleep, hurt to sit in a chair, hurt to stand up completely straight. That constant pain started to affect my mood and irritability levels, which in turn got taken out on my family, so steps needed to be taken.

In all honesty, I went to the doctor just hoping for some Vicoden or any other pain killer that would make it stop just for a little while. Just one night of being able to roll over without whimpering. Just one day of not cringing and hobbling around. The doctor, not too surprisingly, decided on a different course of treatment.

Rather than pain killer to mask the discomfort, he gave me anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the inflammation and hopefully promote healing. The first couple days, it felt like a cure. My leg felt completely like mine again. My flexibility returned. My body felt normal. I could have vibrated out of my skin with relief and excitement. It took every ounce of my considerably weak self-control to not overdo it and leap directly back into full force exercise. I wanted to run a marathon and climb a mountain.

Yet, as the dosage of the medication weaned off the nine day burst, the pain returned. First, it was just twinges again, just the wrong movement or wrong angle. Now, completely off the pills, the leg is slowly creeping back to where we began. It is still better. My flexibility remains vastly improved, but it is worsening by the day.

My ultimate gauge, the line I had in my mind to mark where I was, had been if I had the painful hitch when I stood all the way up. Until today, I was short of that. Today, it started to hint. That stab in my buttcheek as I step out of the car, that hiccup in the fluidity of standing.

I hope I’m not regressing fully. It was so nice to taste recovery. If nothing else, it gave me a little hope, reminded me of what it will be like when it doesn’t hurt every day.

I am scheduled for an MRI next week, so we will know more then. Though my money is on, “hey it’s torn or whatever, just let it heal and do some physical therapy. Oh and pay us $1,000 for the MRI.”

Either way, I can run, and my fitness feels on point lately, so it’s good enough for me. I have found a way to make myself sane around the injury, and at some point, it has to get better.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling

savagescoverchristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

 

thewaning_coverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

 

collectedchristmas_cover

Collected Christmas

Some of the best voices in horror fiction decided to band together and tell you some tales about a different kind of Christmas.

Available now on Amazon!


Hot Chocolate 5K (+1)

I have been injured almost 8 weeks now. 8 weeks on Friday but who is counting? 8 long, never ending, torturous weeks.

My hamstring has improved, marginally. The pain used to be unbearable. It also used to extend the full length of the tendon. Now it has receded to the attachments and only whines at certain positions or movements. Yet, for the first 7 weeks, I could not run on it. At all.

I tried. Of course, I tried. I went to run club one night and could not even make it a block before the pain wrapped around my hip. Every time I fell into a stride, it only got worse. So I gave up and forced myself to remain patient, which is hardly my strong suit. I did not avoid activity. I could not foresake my addiction. So I poured myself more into barre (which is what caused this damn injury) and more into zumba and more into lifting. My body (aside from my hamstring) seems happy about it (and is changing), and my mind is pacified.

Yet, this weekend, I was able to run for the first time. Sort of. Kind of. A little bit.

We did the Hot Chocolate 5K in Denver, and I brought my 5 year old daughter.

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The Hot Chocolate Run is always a fun and easy run. Usually, it is nice and cold, though not at all this year. The course is flat through downtown Denver. And we’re really there for the chocolate not a PR. The only time I strove was doing the 15K last year (and I passed my goals!). But, especially with the kiddos, we were just there to be active and have fun.

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If you asked me at the end of the run how things went, I would say, great! However, if you asked me during, it would depend entirely on the mile.  We all started out strong. Happy kids. I was even able to run (after experimenting with a new KT approach). It was all smiles and jogging.

Then, around mile 1, my child lost it a bit. She hit her wall. Just like her momma, it came in the beginning of the run. There were tears and whining and bargaining, but somehow we managed to encourage her to the first chocolate station. After that, she was a delight.

Unfortunately, she tagged out her tiny bestie. My best friend’s daughter then hit her wall. Just like her own momma, she struggled to the end. More whining and crying and tears across the finish line.

However, all averaged out, it did actually go very well.

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Once again, my friend and I realized that oiur children are, in fact, us running without filters. My daughter had to overcome her wall in the opening miles, just like I do, convincing herself to go until it didn’t hurt anymore. All the things she whimpered definitely go through my head at that point in the run. I have just learned to talk myself out of them and push through. So I attempted to push through my irritation and be that voice for her.

While the girls did the 5K, my husband did the 15K. Without training for it at all. I envied him both because he was physically capable of running distance and that he could run said distance without working for it. I always kill myself for every mile, train relentlessly. The results rarely match the effort. Neither do his, apparently, but in the opposite direction. Yet I was also proud of him for accomplishing it. I hope his soreness leads to more of a fitness commitment.

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Then, of course, there was the chocolate and the sweet hoodie. Incentives I will always come back for. We have already registered for next year.

October is the start of my running season, which is making this injury all the more difficult to accommodate. I am missing my favorite run (Cripple Creek). I downgraded my registration for the Great Pumpkin from 10K to 5K (I adore the 10K of this race). The temperatures are dropping, and I can’t be out on the trail. Yet I can’t force the flesh. I do not want to make it worse. I just keep telling myself that there will be other falls. These weather conditions and these races are annual.

I can do this. I can recover.

On Saturday, I will be doing the Great Pumpkin 5K. I’m curious to see how much I am able to run. Or maybe how much I able to permit myself to not run.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com


The Injury Cycle. Again.

And I’m injured again.

I feel like my fitness life has become one repeating loop. Trauma, recovery, struggle, progress, repeat. It is not a path leading somewhere; instead, it is a rerun of the same circle with varied circumstance. Birth of a child, tweaked hip, now pulled hamstring. True to the cycle, I got into a hard routine, really started to see some promising results, started to push even harder. Then BOOM! Injury. Almost as if my body itself is telling me to calm the hell down.

I’m frustrated, of course. This vicious cycle beats me down because it makes goals seem unattainable if I really am only moving toward them for a hard detour into yet another recovery and new start. Yet I am also irritated because I’m an addict, and I have been derailed. I can’t feed my addiction in this hobbled state; modifications and half-measures are never enough. Some days, full force is not enough. I was FINALLY seeing the aesthetic and performance results I wanted. Or so I told myself because I inevitably upped my requirements, goals, and dreams. But then I pushed too far; I demanded too much of my body, and it objected. Strongly.

I had been taking a lot of Pure Barre classes on a promotion. Barre classes have always been one of the hardest workouts I have attempted. They nearly kill me, and I find myself drawn to the severe challenge. The more classes I took, the better I got at the sequences. I would never say good. I still struggled plenty, but I saw progress. With each class, the closer I also got to doing the splits.

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I have always been super flexible, but I had never done full splits before. Following a dance class at the gym, I took some time to stretch and went through a barre stretch sequence. On the first side, I was ecstatic to find myself sitting flat in front splits with ease. I cautiously eased up to a full sit; then I slowly lifted my hands. I was in the splits! Then I switched sides. I repeated the slow and gentle process. Only on this side, when I lifted my hands, there was a loud snap in my hip joint, and my leg managed to drop even though it was already on the floor.

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I sat there for a second, completely stunned. I did not quite know what to do. I kept thinking, oh this is bad; I think this is really bad. I eased out of the stretch, and my hip and leg just did not feel right. I did some cautious and gentle stretches, attempting to gauge the damage. I walked around slowly. I went into the hot tub. At first, it seemed OK, just off. Then the pain began to bloom. Different movements caused severe twinges. Soon, there was a lot of sharp and awful pain. There might have been some tears too.

As I got my two young children ready for the swimming I promised them after the class, the pain kept seizing my nerves. I bent down to pick one up and nearly collapsed. I turned to dress another and whimpered. The tears fell down my cheeks somewhere between the physical pain and the crushing realization of how seriously I had injured myself. My two babies comforted me, my two year-old asking “OK, Momma?” and my five year-old saying “It’s OK. Breathe in; breathe out.”

Later that night, after some pain killers, I lay down in bed, and my hip snapped again.

The next day, the pain was different. It was no longer sharp and horrible, more dull and achy. However, I was still mostly incapacitated, especially from a fitness perspective. While it was tender during movement, it was unbearable to stretch. I went from being able to sit with my legs out in front of me and fold over to put my head on my kneecaps to feeling a slicing, painful stretch just sitting up with my legs out. The change was unnerving to be so different from the body I knew.

Of course, I immediately wanted to push right through all the pain. The way I did when I injured my hip last year. But I did not. I forced myself to not. For an entire week, I did NOTHING. It sounds like a short amount of time, but I scarcely go a day or two without some physical activity.  I even sought professional advice.

Since I never bruised or colored, I did not tear anything. After visiting the doctor and being tortured by the chiropractor, it seems like just a serious strain. With heat and anti-inflammatory pills and reluctant rest, it is starting to improve.

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After evaluation and instruction and advice, I did permit myself to return to working out. However, I have been taking care to baby the hamstring, to accommodate it, to allow it to heal. I have not run. At all. Chasing my son a couple times has shown me that the hamstring is not at all ready. It actually hurts from the first stride. I have done half-strength zumba and yoga and even barre again. It is strange to go to zumba and only shake one side hard or go to yoga and only lay on one knee cap. It is weird to follow the muscle memory toward my accustomed flexibility and be so halted by the pain.

I am trying to learn this time though. When I injured my hip last year, I ran right through it and stretched the injury out over 9 months. It took way more work to recover. It just never improved because I kept straining it; I kept making it worse. I lived in KT tape, and the KT tape is the only thing that actually allowed it to heal. This time, I am going to rest while hurt, actually recover, then go back. It is killing me, but I keep telling myself that it is the right thing to do. I would rather suffer in the idle now than damage myself long term.

I am trying to take this injury as a good thing, as much as my mind is completely resisting the idea. I was starting to hit it too hard; I can see that now. I was pushing my 6 workouts a week to 9 or 10. I was adding additional days with double workouts, considering triple. I was taking away the one rest day a week I was giving myself. I was crossing that line of healthy enthusiast to self-destructive addict.

Typical me.

So it is a good thing that my body derailed me, a necessary thing. This will give me an opportunity to (begrudgingly) start fresh, reprioritize, see that it is acceptable to take a break and do less. I wish it did not take a serious injury to get me to step back and reevaluate, but it is a reality about myself. Sometimes, even the injury will not stop me. Like last time, I will go right through that pain.

Not this time. This time, I am learning. Or I am making the choice to learn over and over, every time I nearly fall into old patterns and injure myself further or push myself too hard.

I do miss running though. Fall weather is flirting on the edges of summer, and I just want to be on the trail in the mindless rhythm of my footfalls. My body itself misses the motions. It feels the same way it did at the end of my pregnancy and the beginning of post-partum. But I know the running is not going anywhere. The trails will not vanish while I recover. My sanity may side-step for a while, but I can find it again somewhere on one of my routes.

 

Christina Bergling

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Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

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Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

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Exercise: The Bipolar Hack

I think I have come to accept that my obsessive, demanding fitness regime has simply become a way of life. Initially, after having my son, I told myself that I was killing myself just to recover from him. I told myself that I was dial back the effort once I was back to maintaining. Even as I fixated on my shallow pursuit, I think I always knew, deep down, that was not true.

At some recent point, I remembered who I am on multiple levels. I remembered that I do not care about being skinny enough or a certain size; I remembered that it is not really my priority. Instead, I care about sanity. And I remembered that I need this, that obsession, fixation, and self-abuse are at my core. Channeled addiction, directed negative energy.

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I was diagnosed as bipolar when I was 19 years old. By the point I finally sought help and a diagnosis, I was scarcely functional, and my self-mutilation escalated to an alarming degree. What I would later learn were my symptoms emerged when I was 17 yet I can remember hints back into my childhood. I remember feeling so much and never being able to adequately explain or understand it.

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Like most, I railed against my diagnosis, alarmed by the permanence of the idea of being defective or broken. I resisted what it meant, fought what I needed to do, and continued to be a self-destructive mess for a long time. Making peace with what I am, with the way my brain is was probably the hardest point of growth in my life. The idea of who I am, how I identified being defective or undesirable was a difficult pill to swallow.

I tried medication once. And by once, I do not mean one kind of medication; I mean one pill, one time. The experience was horrendous. I was unconscious for over 12 hours, borderline catatonic for the entire next day, then suicidal for two more. I vowed to never attempt medication again, so I had to find an alternative method to deal.

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I did not want to hide in pharmaceuticals, but the chemical component of my disorder is undeniable. I cannot ignore it without it tearing apart my life. I cannot control the structure of my brain. I cannot affect the way my neurotransmitter receptors react to chemicals or the natural levels of serotonin or norepinephrine. However, I learned I can control two things: 1. The chemicals and activities that change my brain chemistry and subsequently moods, and 2. How I react to and process the moods I experience.

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Therapy handled learning how to react and process better. After I got past the resistance to what my diagnosis meant and entailed, sessions could actually be productive. By the end, I learned to suck any fraction of worth from 50 minutes out of a paid hour like a vampire. A reduction in alcohol intake and elimination of detrimental chemicals tamed the peaks of my extremes. Enter exercise as my medication.

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All my self-destructive behaviors included trying to eat and drink myself to death, so when I surfaced from the depths of my depression, I initially started exercising to lose weight. That shift, in itself, was a change from self-destruction to self-care. Instead of trying to kill myself slowly in every way possible, I made one step in the direction of taking care of myself, of deciding my body and my health was worth the investment. Then it was habit and routine to maintain the loss. It took years, but I discovered the mentally therapeutic benefits of fitness when I began dancing and running. When there was a high.

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The high is the key, which is why exercises like dancing and running are more effective for me than walking or weight lifting. I am chasing that wave of euphoric endorphins. Like a true bipolar, I am at home in extremes. Like a true recovered masochist, I always want to push until I hurt myself a little. That high can extract me from depression or level out the waves of my cycles (fun fact: Monster energy drinks also serve the same short term purpose but too much can lead to flirting with psychotic mania). So regular high intensity cardio exercise both helps keep me level and helps level me out when I do cycle.

This realization and practice, nearly a decade of bipolaring in the making, has changed everything for me. I did not have to wean off of medication or forego breastfeeding when I had my babies. I do not have to worry about side effects, the ones I experienced with my one dabbling or others like excessive weight gain associated with psychoactive drugs. I am unshackled. Unchained yet also completely and solely responsible for my own functioning. I’m even off the therapy leash these past few years.

However, this approach is definitely more demanding than popping a pill. Usually, I exercise 8-12 hours per week. Balanced between a full time job, two young children, writing, and a social life with my family stretches me pretty thin (and not in the aesthetic way).

This much self-care requires me to be selfish at times I probably should not be; it makes my relationships inequitable at times. I have to make sure to go run when I should be with my children. My partner has to consider me and make sure I can take care of myself before himself. It is often gravely unfair, but doesn’t my condition need to be considered and attended? Does my neuroatypical brain not require different things than the typical ones around me? Don’t I have to take care of myself to be worth anything to anyone else? These are hard questions to answer, and I do not think the answers are always the same.

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Neuroatypical is a new word to me. So much more comfortable than crazy or broken.

This concept, my way of dealing, has been weighing on my mind with extra heft lately. Recently, additional snippets of family history have been revealed about breakdowns and hospitalizations. The history always just feels like a damning roadmap of my future. But I want to be different.

I already am different. I am living my life out in the open. Part of me hesitated to publish this mental history lesson publicly under my real name, but this is who I am. I am bipolar. And if anyone can benefit from the lessons I have suffered to learn, I am willing to put them out there. I am not hiding or denying, like past generations had to. I have cultivated a support system who are familiar with my challenges and are able to support me through them.

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I am being proactive. If working myself out to the bone is what keeps me sane, I am committing to this fitness lifestyle. It’s a hell of a better reason to do so than just trying to be some kind of skinny.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling

SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com