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Using Fitness to Heal After Trauma

*Trigger Warning – Sexual Assault*

When I was in my mid-teens, I was sexually assaulted repeatedly over a period of two years. Considering that this person was my mentor, I was truly hurt and confused emotionally and mentally beyond just the physical aspect. For years, I tried to rationalize it, normalize it, and I didn’t address it. It wasn’t until I found out that this person had hurt others that I was forced to deal with my trauma. I had the opportunity to get justice in court, but it was only if I agreed to come forward and share what had happened.

Even though I was able to come to the point of acceptance that this really did happen to me, I’m SO grateful to finally get on the path to healing. There were many untapped emotions to deal with and beliefs that I had about myself that I had to question. I believed that it was my fault (when it obviously wasn’t), I felt like I was weak; like I must have deserved to be treated like that because I was a “bad person”. I felt like I was unworthy of good things, and even when I did try to stand up for myself against this person, I couldn’t, emotionally or physically. It was constantly reinforced that I was not worth much.

Now, years have passed, and I have done a lot of work on myself and trauma recovery as well. Even focusing on the mental portion of it, I still didn’t feel recovered physically, and I wasn’t sure how to tackle that. I thought that maybe self-defense classes would help or learning some type of “fighting moves” would make me feel better or stronger, or that I could protect myself better, but that wasn’t the solution. What it really came down to was even though I was taking care of my emotions and feelings and my spirit, I wasn’t taking care of my body as a whole.

I was doing a better job in taking care of myself in the medical aspect, but I wasn’t moving my body. I didn’t realize that I was still holding on to the physical aspect of the trauma that kept me psychologically protected, which was my excess weight. It was how I kept people away and I was still using that as a defense mechanism. I came to the realization that I was ready to let go of that which didn’t serve me anymore.

I made a choice that I was going to join a gym and work out by myself. For me that wasn’t super sustainable because I didn’t know what I was doing! So, then I decided to join a bootcamp and that started my love of group classes. During my journey of that I lost over 100 lbs. It was nice building a community experience through fitness. But it wasn’t until I joined my first CrossFit box that I started to experience structure, support and bodily recovery.

Little by little I learned new skills, started lifting heavier, and actually was appreciating my body for all the wonderful things that it could do, and it had done for me in the past. For the first time I felt strong, motivated, determined, and I had a whole community backing me up telling me nothing but “YES, you CAN” and rooting for me. It was the total opposite of what I had experienced before. If I wanted my body to perform well, I had to make sure I fueled it appropriately, rested it enough and managed my health conditions to the fullest of my capacity.

Fitness isn’t about being the fittest, the leanest, or having the most muscle. It’s not a punishment, and it doesn’t make up for anything - it’s a celebration of how wonderful your body is! Your body is fighting to keep you alive and keep you healthy every single second of your life! Nourish yourself, respect yourself and most of all, love yourself.

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