How to Embrace Physical Therapy and Love Group Fitness

Physical. Therapy. Not exercise. Not weight loss. Not speaking with a counselor. But treatment for your body as well as your mind. I’m not much for the metal robotic playgrounds known as the gym but I do have a newly found appreciation for group fitness classes. Yes, there I said it. The secret is out.

Ahhh group fitness classes. You are a trip from reality. No adult wakes up and thinks “today I’ll join a room full of strangers and play Simon Says for an hour” do they? But that’s exactly what it is. If you cannot embrace your inner five-year-old then the whole group fitness thing may not be for you. However, I have to tell you why it may just be exactly what you need. I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, and it’s actually not laced with cyanide contrary to my initial aversion to it.

Being a natural critic, I’m more inclined to participate in solo sports. Like running and working out in the privacy of my own home. Something similar to getting prison buff I’d often do squats and pushups in our master bathroom. Doors locked. Access not permitted to the kids or husband. Insert headphones, play some rap music, and get jailhouse strong. After all, being a stay-at-home mom can honestly feel a bit like prison so I guess you could say I was making the most of my time on lockdown.

It’s not that I wanted to confine myself to this routine. The truth is, I started doing this workout when I was pregnant with my first child. I was never a glowing pregnant woman. I didn’t know how to embrace my changing body or my abrupt morning sickness. If I was going to lose my breakfast cookies, it was going to be in the comfort of my own home. Or in a bush, because people just expect runners to throw up. It’s kind of a thing.

Actual Physical Therapy

Due to an unforeseen incident, running was ripped from my routine. I had an injured upper body and no longer could I run outside or turn my head for that matter. Life felt pretty dim as physical therapy became a must and it wasn’t pretty. I traded in my trainers for a cervical traction unit, the old school kind that hangs from a door. It looks like a water bag that weighs down a jock strap you place your face in. Ok so it’s not an actual jockstrap but the similarities are uncanny. The goal is to straighten your spine by stretching your neck and it is somewhat of a torture device. I combined this masochistic stretch with physical therapy twice a week.

PT wasn’t all that bad. Physical therapy is much like having your own physical trainer in that they won’t let you slack. You’re getting back into motion while repairing your body. It’s straight up work but it’s better than the alternative, which is almost always surgery. This turned out to be my gateway drug. I became addicted to feeling better and I needed to expand my horizons beyond the physician’s office. Because my pt exercises were a basic form of pilates it just made sense to start looking into some local fitness centers. I was interested in guided group fitness because, in all fairness, I still needed some adult supervision.

Welcome to the gym.

As you enter prepare yourself for mysterious grunting. The sounds mimicking a visit to the zoo during mating season. If that hasn’t scared you away then you have passed the first test and can get acquainted with the front desk. I find it best to research the center first and make sure that they offer at least one free day or class. If there’s no try before you buy then I’d beware of seller.

Class Options

This was an easy choice for me at the start of my fitness adventure. If it involved weights or dancing you could have considered me out. I liked a class where there was a lot of lying around. So by process of elimination, I went with pilates. Now with a colorful imagination, you can pretend you are still in bed as you lay on your back in class. I like to double up on mats and I’ve even seen pillows in class. Wearing a robe could be pushing it but I’m not saying it won’t happen.

Basic moms do yoga and drink coffee. That’s an ideal way to dodge laundry and stay under the radar. Breaking out of my fitness comfort zone was only possible because of a very persistent friend. Because of her, not only did she get me in the doors, but she got me to try Zumba. I’m sorry but I can’t possibly be the only gal who believed that salsa was just a dip. And let me tell you, I am absolutely the worst at Zumba. It’s probably painful to watch but it hasn’t deterred me from finding my inner Shakira. Even if I look like her twice removed cousin who’s in accounting. I’m a highly caffeinated basic mom and I’ve aged out of the club scene. Where else can I dance like it’s 2005? There is even a disco ball. Need I say more.

I’ve tried a few different classes outside of yoga and pilates. There are weight classes that I occasionally attend. If I’m feeling like getting back to my prison workout routine that is. I am shameless with my 2 lb weight plates at opposite ends of my dumbbell. You really have to let go of feeling bashful and just allow yourself to be vulnerable in these settings. 

The very last thing I wanted was to be around “fit” people. I guess this is where it comes down to straight up perspective and misconceptions. Have you seen those gym commercials catering to the “lesser equipped” category of people that want to get their fitness on? Where they advertise THEIR facility as being the relaxed place to be. They display the fitness beasts and make it clear they aren’t welcomed there. Now, in my opinion, this is straight up manipulation. It creates this divide that we can’t work on ourselves while being equally supportive of those that are on a separate journey from ours. It also gives the impression to a naive mama that most gyms will, in fact, have an array of toned muscles and glutes. Which translates to insecurity within ourselves. It’s just not the case. Sure, there are people with rock hard abs but the majority of people are normal citizens just trying to override the weekend indulgences. High five everyone and recognize that we are all awesome in our own ways.

 

Routine

Don’t expect your limbs to cooperate. If you’re new at general stretching then you need to cut yourself some slack. It’s easy to become frustrated with your own body. Also, don’t go freaking crazy. I swear I felt the holy spirit during my initial three-day gym pass. However, on day four, I was on my knees praying in pain. I am an unapologetically self-proclaimed basic suburban mom with back and neck injuries. I had to take my Jersey shore routine down a notch. There’s a reason these centers schedule their hardcore classes every other day. Your body will feel different every time you work on it and you should not go HAM every day. No one had ever told me that. Some days I’d swear I could join the circus with my sweet new yoga moves. Other days I need a walker and an early bird dinner. It’s about balance. Stretch one day, lift the next. Listen to your body above all.

There is always one overachiever though. The person who is trying out for the fitness class Olympics. Ok, so I’m talking about myself. This does NOT happen every day though. Most of the time I am struggling on shaky knees. Some days I feel invincible more than likely due to an extra shot of espresso. It’s practice, you will improve each time and your mind will always thank you.

BEST KEPT SECRET

Childcare. Let me repeat this, childcare. I’m not savvy with the childcare policies of every gym, but mine allows TWO HOURS of childcare. That’s 120 minutes of guilt-free parental freedom. There are even parent night outs. One time, during the meditation period of my body flow class, I had a complete “AHA” moment. I could drop off my child and actually go lay out by the pool or have a cup of coffee at the cafe in silence!  Fitness class, pool, repeat daily. My son is two and this time is absolutely priceless for his social development and for my sanity. Take advantage of these amenities!

Sure, there will be tears from your little one the first few times you drop them off. Try diligently not to skip away singing Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This”. Or at least wait until you are out of sight. You can absolutely pull a muscle with pure enthusiasm. If you feel guilty just remember that our kids need time with other kids. Or just flashback to the last time you told them to eat their veggies. Anyways, how many of us can actually organize a two-hour playdate each day for our children? I can barely make my bed.

Mental Health

This post is not just for my fellow mamas. It’s for everyone who is breathing. It’s for our husbands and our friends so spread the word about the new kind of physical therapy. We often forget about nurturing our souls because we get caught up with the numbers on the scale or the errands to be run. Let me tell you, something starts happening in our brains when we start intentionally moving our bodies. It never registers until you actually feel it happening. The runner’s high is a real thing. But I had completely “lost that loving the feeling” when I no longer possessed the ability to hit the pavement. I’m thankful for that neighbor who turned into a friend that invited me to our local YMCA. She was not taking no for an answer. We all need that push now and again.

I was in a dark place. We’d just moved and with the overwhelming need to get settled into our new home, I’d become consumed with housework and less concerned with my own basic needs. Everything can be seemingly perfect but there’s still that emptiness. That’s why when I tried my first Body Flow class, I was taken aback at the waves of emotions it induced. The class itself is a combination of tai chi, yoga, and pilates. No one warned me that at the end, there is a time for meditation. When my instructor began the words of affirmation I thought “oh ok, so crying at the Y is now a thing for me”. Hearing “yes, you are indeed enough” from a soft voice was enough to put me right over the edge. In truth, I held back the tears because I’m no sissy but they were secretly flowing within me. I needed to save that meltdown for a more appropriate time, like splitting my pants in class etc. Luckily I can report that no such mishap has occurred. Yet.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the coffee center at my gym. Aside from a few side conversations about allergies because this is my real REAL grown-up life now, it’s quiet. I can focus on my own thoughts and I can actually finish a cup of coffee without having to microwave it once. My son is happily playing in childcare and all is well in the world. In this season of temper tantrums, morning chaos, and the dreaded bedtime shuffle, this is our safe place. When we leave, I will be feeling refreshed and prepared for life and that’s truly invaluable in this hectic world we live in to practice some form of self-care

 

Brishen is originally from New York but has lived in Florida fourteen years which now means that she freezes when the temperature drops to 75 degrees. She's married to her best friend Kevin. They are cemented together through sarcasm and witty flirtations. Through God's grace, they are the parents to Declan (5) and Connell (2). They live with another couple, Jake who's 47, and Ellie is 36 according to The American Kennel Club. She is a stay at home mom though she is relentless in trying to escape the daily grind of laundry and bleaching EVERYTHING. She finds refuge in pilates and in helping others. She hosts an annual blessing bag party. Then with her family distributes the bags all over Tampa Bay. She is diligently trying to raise boys into men that will restore faith in humanity one kind act at a time. She thinks the key to life is not to take oneself too seriously. A sense of humor and a strong cup of coffee don't hurt either. Her suburban journey can be followed as bring.me.coffee on Instagram.