You’re Stronger Than You Think

“In the middle of a difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

I used to hate when people would say “You’re Stronger than you think”. Probably because I didn’t feel that strong in most areas in my life.

Recently I’ve been getting obsessed with my physical health. I’m focussed on how and what I eat, and how I sleep. My reasoning is that if my body is healthy and strong, I can face whatever challenges come my way.

With this new obsession, I discovered that I have some work to do on my fitness level. I’m so proud that I’ve lost so much weight (over 50 pounds). But losing weight doesn’t mean I am physically fit. I run out of breath when doing warmups in class. And in the last two years, I’ve noticed I’ve had dizzy spells. So I did a test. My VO2 max (I don’t want to bore you with the details, but it’s a way of measuring physical fitness) is really low. Mine was 24 (but it is already increasing!) and for someone my age a good average is 36 and above.

And so I joined an F45 gym. It is called that because you do 45-minute workouts that consist of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT workouts increase your heart rate (which will improve my VO2 max) but last week it almost killed me.

At F45 you work out in pairs. And I got partnered with one of the personal trainers. She was working out on her day off. Already inspiring. A buzzer starts each rotation and as it was about to go off, I looked at the dumbbells. I was six days into the training so felt a bit more confident. I picked up the 15-kilogram dumbbells and started. And I was straining a little bit. But I gave myself a little mental pep talk “Let’s go Aleks! Push!” As I started, I moaned and groaned with the effort. Then I looked over at my partner. She was lifting 25 kilos like it was nothing!

And deep down, I felt embarrassed. I kept telling myself that she has been doing this much longer than I have. But my ego was bruised. As the workout progressed, I did my best to keep up with her. But I was constantly falling behind. So I pushed even harder. Toward the end of the 45 minutes, I noticed that like me, my partner and everyone else were looking exhausted and pale. Nobody was high-fiving as we were at the beginning of the workout. Everybody was looking down and shuffling to the next station.

On the final rotation, my partner and I were doing chest presses with dumbbells for 40 seconds, immediately followed by 40 seconds of push-ups. It was a brutal station to end on. Everything in my body hurt. My muscles were shaking and I was barely able to lift myself off the floor to do push-ups. Then I looked over at my partner and I saw her pumping push-up after push-up.

So I re-focussed and was trying to finish and then 15 seconds before the buzzer sounded to end the rotation, I see my partner collapse onto the mat exhausted. Sweet relief! I smiled to myself and thought; “Finally, I can relax now.” So I fell to the mat in slow motion, looking for the sweet embrace of the ground. Honestly, I just wanted to wait out the clock.

But then I heard her whisper to herself; “Come on girl. You got a couple more in you!” She strained and groaned as she squeezed out a couple more push-ups. And I looked at her, almost in tears, with my face pressed against the mat. Because I did not want to do this but I had to try. So I pressed myself against the ground.

As I strained to do one more push-up my body fell back to the ground. I tried again and I fell again. But then I said to myself “Aleks, you’ve got at least one more in you!”

My body hurt so much! I moaned and my body creaked like an old car. But as the bell rang, I managed one more push-up. I barely managed to stand up at the end. But my partner was already standing and smiling. She fist-bumped me and said; “Great job!”

And the most amazing feeling was the realization that I am stronger than I think.

There have been many points in my life when I quit or pulled back because I thought I wasn’t strong enough or good enough or whatever. But that’s not true. I have a lot more to give.

And so this week, I’m focusing on ensuring that I leave everything on the table. Whether that is in the gym, in my relationships or in my classes, I want to walk away feeling stronger and more proud that I gave everything I had and more.

As you’re facing your challenges, and you feel like you can’t do one more repetition, believe me when I say that you’ve got a lot more in you than you realize. Push through one more rep.

YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.

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