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The Knockout

I joined one of those new wave, uber-hip gyms last month- the kind with unfinished cement work contrasting the neon green décor and shiny silver machines. They have protein shakes, purified water flavored with fresh fruit, and extraordinarily friendly service. They also have boxing class.  What could be more perfect for an out-of-shape, middle-aged, mother of two than a boxing class?

I walked into the boxing room on my first day of class. It was full of physically fit guys who couldn’t have been more than 20 years old.  Many of them seemed to know each other, and they were showing off their new moves as they started warming up, shadow boxing in the mirrors or ‘working the bags.’ They were making that “huh,” sound boxers make when they hit stuff.

It wasn’t two seconds before my stomach dropped, and I turned and walked (jumped/ran/fled) back out of the boxing room. Fear, Self -doubt, and my Inner Critic took their places in that doorway and in my mind. “You don’t belong here,” they said.  “You will make a fool of yourself if you go in there,” they said. “You will fail at this,” they said.

I stood in the hallway faced with a choice.  The women’s locker room was right there; I could have hidden in there for a bit. Or I could have chosen to walk back into that room.

I thought of a question that was posed to us in Project You: “Does this choice make me feel stronger and more powerful? Or, does it leave me feeling weak, and disempowered?” Questions and mantras from other lessons from the Center came to mind: “What would I do if I were brave?”  “If I want to be in command of my life, I have to go after what I want.”

I wanted to take this class. Choosing to let Fear and my Critic keep me from class would have made me feel week and disempowered.  Choosing to show up and take what I want would make me feel stronger.

I walked back in.

As class started, I ran back out, but this time it was to run the flights of stairs in the hallway, which was the first warm up exercise.  Usually, I take the elevator.

The instructor, John, yelled instructions as we got moving.  After the first flight we were to do three push-ups, he said; after the second flight, six push-ups, and so on. I can’t do push-ups.

As I struggled to jog up the stairs, a line of physically-fit 20 year olds passed me as they completed their second, then third lap.  My Critic laughed, “This is only the first warm up.  You made a mistake.  Just bow out.” I told myself, “I’ll get stronger. I want this.”

John waited for me to make it back into the room after the stairs, and then put us into the next rotation of warm up exercises: Burpies. From a standing position, a person drops to the floor and does a push-up, then, pulling your feet to your elbows, you stand up, then jump.  Repeat.

Instructor John stood less than six inches away from me, trying to be encouraging.  I dropped to the floor for a push up. I felt my wrist give way, and I literally fell on my face.  He giggled a little, crouched down to my level, and told me, “That’s alright, just get up and try it again.”

As class progressed, different guys stopped to help me.  “It’s best to face your thumbs forward when you do a plank in gloves,” they told me.   One leaned over to give me a quiet hint, “Leg lifts are easier if you support your hips with your fists.” My struggle must have been showing, because soon they were saying things like, “You’re doing good,” and, “Don’t give up, it gets easier.”  They gave me fist-bumps.

I was grateful for their support, and each time my Critic came at me, I countered her with other mantras from CSL.

Critic, with the left jab: “Hahahaha. You can’t do this.”

Me, with the right hook : “I deserve to take care of myself like this.”

At the end of class I walked out feeling stronger, more powerful.

It’s against this gym’s policies to let boxing students fight each other. At first I thought that was kind of odd. Now, I appreciate that the students in the class are there to help each other, and the only one I really needed to fight was the Critic inside my head. The lessons I have learned through the Center remind me that I am the only one who can defeat her. And I will.

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