Posted by: Marie | April 6, 2013

(825) Not too uncomfortable – Part 1 of 2

Post #825
[Private journal entry written on Friday, March 30, 2012]

I went to the gym yesterday. Kyle, the personal trainer guy, happened to be standing right by the bag/coat rack when I first arrived. As I was hanging up my bag and getting out my water bottle and notebook, he asked me how I was doing . . .


Me: I’m doing well!

Kyle: So, how are you doing with your fitness goals?

Me: I’m about in the same place as when I handed you that note . . . I’ve worked out only twice in the past two weeks, so I’m pretty much in the same place.

Kyle: Are you able to come in more often now?

Me: Yeah . . . the last few weeks have been a little rough . . . my schedule was really busy and I was dealing with some PTSD stuff . . . but, I think I’m over the rough patch. I feel like I’m in a better place with all of it now.


Photo by Martin Chen

Kyle: Good! I’m glad to hear that!

Me: The good news is that I’m getting ready to increase my time on the treadmill from 45 minutes to 50 minutes in the next day or two.

Kyle: How much incline are you using?

Me: I warm up at 0% and then take it up to 0.5% for the main part. I know it is not much, but I’m wanting to take it slow . . . I don’t want to push myself too hard yet.

Kyle: Let me challenge you with this . . . instead of increasing the time and keeping the incline the same, why don’t you increase the incline to 3% for like 30 seconds or a minute, then bring it back down to the 0.5%, and see what happens? Do you think you could do that?


I immediately got a panicked, sick feeling in my gut . . . it feels dangerous to have Kyle throwing out willy-nilly suggestions. To feel safe, I need to have a program that I stick with . . . a predictable, gentle schedule . . . no sudden changes . . . no loss of control . . . that is the only way I can feel safe while trying to tolerate the intense experience of being “in my body” for long periods of time . . .

It feels risky to me to allow anyone else to get involved with my program – at least this first stage of my program where I’m just trying to get to the point where exercise – any exercise – doesn’t trigger me. If I let Kyle get involved, he is going to want to change things . . . and I’ll be labeled “resistant” if I don’t take his advice . . . he won’t want to work with me . . .

I kind of hem-hawed and then said I would think about. I think he sensed my resistance . . . he immediately backed off. He wished me a good workout. I headed off to the treadmill.

Once I got a steady pace set on the treadmill, I allowed my thoughts to wander . . .

What am I so afraid of?

I’m not at all afraid of the exercise itself . . . in my day-to-day life, I engage in physically challenging activity all the time. The flight of stairs at my studio has an altitude gain of around 15 feet . . . I run up and down those stairs many times each day without a second thought, and I do it without noticeably affecting my breathing or heart rate. I even carry my unwieldy 50-pound digital keyboard up and down those stairs by myself . . . the keyboard is almost as long as I am tall. I slide the pianos, couches and bookcases around the studio by myself whenever we have a recital . . . so, exertion is not what I fear.

I think the difference between moving furniture around my studio and pushing myself on the treadmill is that, at the studio, I’m focused on getting a task completed . . . I’m in my head. When I’m on the treadmill, I’m very much in my body . . . mentally and emotionally connected with my body. And there are still so many unaddressed somatic memories that come up for me when I am in that state. It is not rare for me to have to go climb under the covers after a workout – even after a gentle workout – because I’ve been triggered by the exertion and am overwhelmed by emotions.

I have learned over time that the best way to handle what comes up for me is to have a gentle routine – a predictable routine – one in which I know how my body is going to likely respond . . . no surprises. Any change to that routine needs to be gentle and gradual so the changes don’t shake up my emotions too much – because too many quick changes make it very difficult to talk myself into coming to the gym.

It is just such a delicate balance . . . I’m just trying to get myself used to the experience of working out . . . that is my goal right now, rather than getting into shape. So, Kyle suggesting a dramatic, ad hoc change to my routine freaks me out.

But, the last month has brought some healing changes for me, right? Maybe that healing would allow me to try something a little different . . . just a little bit different . . . just today . . . just one time . . .

What would be the worst that would happen?

Well, it would mess up my tidy program . . . I have it all planned out . . . when I reach a certain level of endurance, I’ll make a certain change to my workout. When I reach the next level of endurance, I’ll make another certain change to my workout . . .

If I take on Kyle’s challenge today, it will mean I’m making a change to my workout – an unplanned change – before I’ve reached a certain level of endurance. It will mean the order of things will be reversed.

Really? Have I become that paralyzed and rigid that I can’t step outside the “plan” for one day? Really?

No . . . I’m not that paralyzed and rigid.

Do I feel strong enough psychologically to take on Kyle’s challenge . . . just for today? Or, am I in a fragile state? The answer is . . . I’m feeling strong today . . . playful . . . even a bit daring.

Could I be so daring as to take the treadmill to 3% incline for 30 seconds?

Well, sure!

What about a minute?

Absolutely . . . it wouldn’t be a big deal at all.

What about doing that two times during today’s workout?

Yeah . . . I can do it! I’m gonna do it!

At about that point in my internal conversation, Kyle happened to walk by my treadmill. I hollered out . . .


Me: Hey, Kyle . . . I’m going to do what you said . . . I’m going to take my incline to 3% for a minute . . . and then I’m going to do it again a few minutes later.

Kyle: (Coming over to stand near me) That’s awesome!

Me: I don’t think it will be very hard to do . . .

Kyle: Do you stay at the same speed throughout your workout?

Me: Obviously, I go slower during my warm-up and cool-down. But, other than that, I keep it at 3.3 mph . . . that’s my natural stride and it is easy for me to maintain it, even with an incline.

Kyle: If you keep the same speed as you go to the 3% incline, you’ll notice your heart rate and breathing will increase. But, that’s okay . . . sometimes people will want to check their heart rate during that hard push, but it’s better not to . . . make sure you keep your hands off the bar . . . do you feel stable enough to not hang on?

Me: Oh, yeah, no problem . . .

Kyle: Wait . . . how are you getting a heart rate on the display . . . ?? Oh, you must have a chest strap on!

Me: Yeah . . . that’s why I don’t need to hang on with the steeper incline.

Kyle: Okay . . . I was actually more concerned about you feeling off-balance with the incline.

Me: Oh . . . no, that doesn’t bother me . . . (laughing) I’m not that fragile!

Kyle: (Laughing as he started walking away) Okay . . . let me know how it goes!


So . . . I did it. I did a minute at 3% incline. Then, a few minutes later, I did another minute. Both times, my heart rate increased only six points during the minute, and then came right back down again within 10-15 seconds of my returning to the 0.5% incline. My breathing hardly increased at all.

It ended up being no big deal!

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

Quotes 735


  1. Awesome. :-)

    • Thank you, Ellen!!

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