Posted by: Marie | May 27, 2012

(639) Anyone willing and able?

Post #639
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, June 8, 2011]

I’ve been going to the local gym on a fairly regular basis lately. I’m still sticking with a very “easy” routine . . . I’ve been working out only on the treadmill. I started out with a 30-minute work-out and I’ve increased it a few minutes each week or two until I’m up to 45 minutes now.

I am physically capable of working out for far more time than that and I’m physically capable of working out at a higher intensity. However, I’m not doing it because I don’t want to get triggered from it. I’m just trying to get used to the idea of going to the gym on a regular basis.

As I’ve been walking and walking and walking on the treadmill, I’ve been playing with the idea of hiring a personal trainer at some point. I don’t think I need help with the treadmill . . . I mean, how hard can it be to use a treadmill!?!?!

Photo by Martin Chen

But, I think I could use some guidance on the weight training whenever I finally feel I can handle attempting that. It might be a while yet, but maybe it would be good to start interviewing trainers and to select one now so I can start developing a relationship with him or her . . . and so I can start getting used to the idea of actually working with a trainer.

When I think of working with a trainer, I get all triggered . . . just entertaining the idea of it is triggering for me. I know I have a long way to go to be ready for that . . . when I think about it, I get emotional – to the the point of tears. I’ve wiped away several tears as I contemplated this possibility while marking the miles on the treadmill . . .

But, I want to start heading in that direction. So, as a first step, I sent an email to the owners of the little local gym I utilize . . .


To Whom It May Concern:

I have a rather unusual request . . .

For the past few years, I’ve been on a healing journey. This journey involves dealing with PSTD resulting from a history of childhood abuse.

In past attempts to develop a well-rounded fitness program, I’ve struggled with being psychologically triggered by the exercise, especially exercise that is new and/or challenging. When that happens, the idea of returning to the gym is pretty much intolerable.

Working with a personal trainer has had positive parts – I’ve had someone to walk me through the scary process of learning about unfamiliar equipment and exercises. It has also had negative parts – anytime someone gives me direction or pushes me to try too many new things at once, I feel very out-of-control which causes me to get triggered in a big way. That means I get triggered by the trainer doing exactly what he or she is supposed to be doing.

So, due to frustration, I’ve stayed away from all of it.

In the past few years, I’ve been working with my psychotherapist to learn how to better tolerate new physical experiences. I’ve been learning how to sit with the discomfort and how to sort out what specifically is triggering me – and I’ve learned how to voice to the other person what I need in order to move through the experience and become more comfortable with the experience – all while staying present in my body (instead of dissociating). For example, I might ask for less of this, more of that, or I might say I need to take a break for a few minutes – or even for a few days.

I’m feeling brave enough to carry this process into the fitness arena. Right now, I only use the treadmill. I’d like to use some of the other equipment. I think it would be helpful to have the assistance of one of your personal trainers.

I imagine my training sessions would be infrequent and very short (once every 2-3 weeks, 10-15 minutes in duration), at least for now. And, my trainer would need to be comfortable with allowing me to be in total control. (I know that is not the usual protocol.) I might feel able to try out a new machine, or I might need to stick with sitting at the table and talking, or I might need to stop all together after only a few minutes.

I think the format would be more about me asking questions and gathering information – and trying out new equipment and exercise on my own time. I think I’d check back in a week or two later to confirm I’m doing the exercise correctly. But, I’d have to set up my own program based upon what I’m comfortable doing rather than what is best for my fitness. (But, I’d take suggestions, obviously.)

And, finally, my trainer would need to be comfortable with me crying . . . I don’t mean lying on the floor, sobbing type of crying . . . but, I’ve had enough experience with this process to know that tears come into my eyes when I get hit with strong emotion. My choices are to either feel the emotion (and allow the tears roll down my face) or dissociate . . . and the whole idea here is to get better at doing the former. So, yup, I’m sure a few tears will be involved.

I wouldn’t need my trainer to do anything except to give me a few minutes to process the feelings, then we could continue (assuming I can). I don’t need a shrink at the gym, I just need someone who will follow my lead when it comes to the emotional stuff – I know what to do in that area!

So . . . do you have anyone on staff who would be willing and able to deal with my situation? If so, I’d be interested in talking with that person.


– Marie Smith (current member of gym)


  1. I’ll be very interested to see how the gym responds! This post, and your earlier posts regarding the struggle with exercise, reminds me a lot of some of the struggles I had, particularly last year. What I finally did was give up the idea of exercise, and I bought a treadmill desk. This was a good fit for me because I work at home a lot, and the amount of sitting I do was worrying me … even if I were to be able to commit to exercise, an hour a day wouldn’t offset all the sitting. Anyway, it was amazing to me how much my resistance to the idea of exercise just completely vanished once it was tied to work … I’ve never had any resistance to the idea of work. So now I work at between 2.5-3 mph, between 60 and 100 miles per week. And something about the continual motion has been extremely useful in processing somatically held trauma that I simply couldn’t get at in therapy. I think that, for me, what was so freeing about this was that I stopped resisting the resistance, and decided to come at it from such a completely different angle that the resistance wasn’t there, because I was no longer exercising. I mean, sure, yes, I am…but not in any way that my wounded self recognizes.

    I don’t know where you are in this journey, but just in case it’s useful, I’d like to say this: sometimes it’s not only okay, but very productive, to go around something rather than getting over it, if that makes sense. I’ve known other trauma survivors who were able to get similar “resistance bypass” results by training for a cycling race (which felt like an achievement, rather than like exercise), or deciding to learn how to tap dance (with other midlife adults who weren’t built like dancers), or teaching a kid how to roller skate, etc.

    Love to you, Marie.

    • Hey, David –

      I had read on your blog about your treadmill idea . . . it struck me as a great idea when I read it. But, I had forgotten about it until you reminded me here.

      I think you are on to something here about coming at things from a totally different angle . . .

      Just a sneak peak into the future . . . I do have a personal trainer now and in our orientation meeting, he pegged me right off the bat as someone who is highly motivated by charts and numbers and measurable progress . . .

      He encouraged me to get a moderately fancy heart rate monitor (I’ve owned and used a very basic one the last ten years — it displays your current heart rate and that is all . . . no tracking max or min or avg, etc.)

      Well, I followed his advice and now I’m hooked on the dumb thing . . . I can track all kinds of metrics and put them in all the really cool spreadsheets and charts I’ve developed . . . I get so excited to see my numbers each day, I spend long periods of time just admiring them . . . and my trainer just laughs . . .

      So, for me, the focus shifted from “getting fit” and “being skinny” to admiring the trends in my charts . . . how many calories I can burn at a certain heart rate . . . who knew it was so simple to motivate me, hah!

      Anyway . . . thanks for the input/ideas . . . I hope it provides lots of inpiration for all of us!

      – Marie

  2. I too will be very interested to see the reply you got.

    • Keep watching for it, LOL!

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