“Well, everything looks okay on the x-ray, except for one thing. The bones in your feet seem to be a little too, uh, skinny,” the doctor said, looking me over a little skeptically where I sat on the exam table.
“Really?” I sucked in my cheeks and sat up a little straighter, trying to disguise the fact that I’d eaten a plate of cheesy nachos for dinner the night before. And a cupcake for dessert. (Okay, two cupcakes.)
After months of a nagging pain in my left foot, I finally made an appointment to see a podiatrist. It ached when I got up in the morning, and off and on throughout the day. I was worried it could be a stress fracture.
“I know, weird,” he said, more to himself than to me, before he directed my attention to the lighted screen where my x-ray was posted.Using the tip of a ballpoint pen, he pointed out how several of the bones in both feet—his fancy word was metatarsal—were exceptionally slender. And sure enough, when I squinted past the sleeve of his light blue scrubs, I could see that the grayish-white bones connecting my toes to the main part of my foot looked pretty skinny.
“Huh,” we both said simultaneously.
He recommended orthotics—yeah, right, I thought—and solemnly explained that the especially frail- looking bone in my left foot, the one causing my discomfort, will probably fracture at some point.
“You should probably take a break from exercising so much.”
Yeah, right, I thought again. I slipped my new sandals back on—the ones he claimed didn’t provide enough support—paid for my homely orthotics, and trotted out the door.
See, although you wouldn’t really know it to look at me, I exercise very, very regularly; at least six—but usually seven—times a week. These days I alternate between two kinds of workouts: Crossfit and Bikram Yoga.
You would be hard-pressed to find two more opposite fitness routines.
Last Saturday at Bikram, Gordon—a wiry, athletic man in his late forties—watched worriedly as I lowered myself on to my yoga mat, wincing and grimacing like the Tin Man without an oil can. I saw him observe the bruises on my shins and knees from deadlifts, the discoloration on my collarbone from power cleaning a weighted bar the day before.
“Were you in a car accident?” he whispered, his sweaty brow knitted together in concern.
“No,” I smiled wryly. “Just doing a lot of Crossfit lately.”
Imagine, I thought, if he saw my tailbone. Because that particular part of my body was shredded to bits from all those abmat sit-ups.
I looked online for a definition of Crossfit, but the official website had all kinds of big words like capacity culled from the intersection of all sports and revolution in the fitness industry. Scary.
So I went on our own Crossfit Bedford website and it was a teeny bit better: it said things like constantly varied and high intensity and elite.
I figured since this is my blog, I’ll come up with my own definition: Crossfit is different every day, it’s hard, and it will make you do things you never, ever expected a 38-year old body who has had too many children to do. Anyone can do it. (Obviously. I’m there, aren’t I?) Phrases like wall-climbs and power snatches and AMRAP will roll off your tongue, and you’ll actually find yourself excited to practice handstand push-ups. You do it in a box, but not a real box, more like a room with high ceilings.
I did the same 30-second lengthy research for a definition of Bikram Yoga. It was a little less scary than Crossfit, and said things like mind/body connection and breathing exercises and postures.
But once again, my blog, my definition: Bikram Yoga is a ninety minute moving meditation with the same twenty-six poses every time. It’s really, really hot. Like death-hot. In fact, you do it in something called a hot room. Oh, and no one talks except the instructor, which is kind of hard for me.
Right about now you might be wondering which one I like better, Crossfit or Bikram? Well, my answer is this: neither. And both.
When I need to bang out some frustration, to feel powerful and strong and mighty, I go to Crossfit, where I sweat ad grunt and lift barbells and swing kettlebells and jump rope for an hour.
From Crossfit, I’ve learned how to fight; to fight for heavier weights and a better push-up, to fight for the elusive pull-up and the higher box jump. How to fight to keep my brown-haired son in our world instead of letting him lapse into his own autistic universe of license plates and spiders and tantrums.
Crossfit gives me the strength, the muscle to lift a sobbing 75-pound boy off the floor and into my lap, to hold his flailing arms firmly by his side, to cradle him close and whisper sshhh Jack don’t cry we’ll get through this.
And when I need to quiet the frantic voices in my head, voices that relentlessly chant things like he will never be normal never be normal never be normal, I choose yoga. I choose the deep hush of the hot room and the soothing rhythm of twenty-six consistent postures. I choose to breathe.
From Bikram, I’ve learned to surrender, to relinquish, to accept. To still the voices and love both the boy and his autism, to flex and bend around sexy pancakes and stimming and my own fear without breaking.
Many, many mornings I’ve wept on the short drive to Crossfit or the longer ride to Bikram. Alone in the car, I wipe tears from my eyes thinking about how we didn’t catch Jack’s lazy eye and how he wanted to cancel his own birthday party because the only boy he invited couldn’t make it and how his anxiety has flared again and he’s scared to use the bathroom.
But then I walk in the door, and someone calls out good morning here’s Carrie she’s three minutes late again, and I lift my eyes. I straighten up. Because these people don’t care if I ever master a pull up or touch my head to my knee or lose twenty pounds. Instead, they care about how Joey did in the school talent show and whether Jack’s wearing his glasses and how we’re celebrating Rose’s birthday. In both the Crossfit box and the Bikram hot room, I’ve found so much more than a chance to sweat and burn calories and build muscle.
I have found my own community.
I will never be the strongest or the thinnest or the fastest or the flexible-ist person. (This may have more to do with nutrition than exercise.Cake and I are very good friends.) And that is okay with me. Because over the past year I’ve started to come to terms with exactly what these two different disciplines give me.
The yin and the yang of Crossfit and Bikram combine to make me whole, to heal my spirit when it feels broken, to put me back together when the stress of autism and five kids and motherhood threatens to crack me apart.
And anyway, the bones in my feet are skinny. How many people can say that?