Don’t Let a Junior High Fitness Test Define Your Journey

The weight room in my junior high school was dark, cramped, and the stench of sweaty teenager’s hitting puberty lingered 24/7.  And it was one of my least favorite rooms in the entire school.  With that room came frustration, embarrassment, and uncertainty.  Anxiety would rise every time I sat on the floor in my less than flattering grey Clay Trojans gym uniform because of one moment:  the fitness test.  The dreaded fitness test to monitor our progress and ability.   Although I was a swimmer and pulled most of my strength from my stroke and not kick, there was one part of the test I never looked forward to doing: the chin up portion, mainly because we had to do it in front of the entire class. I couldn’t even pull myself up half-way.  I’d see student after student whip out several chin ups with impressed cheers from our fellow peers crowded around on the floor, but then my name was called.  I’d get up with a laugh and make some comment about knowing I can’t do one and nonchalantly shrug it off to my classmates.  I’d sit back down with a laugh again, confirming my lack of a chin up.  To my peers on the outside, I seemed collected and content with the defeat, but the very first time I had to attempt a chin up for the fitness test was the one moment I told myself I was incapable, insignificant, and unsuccessful.   This moment led to years of self-loathing, doubt, and insecurity when it came to my appearance and strength.  Whenever a new physical or athletic challenge was in front of me, I doubted any potential.  That moment was embarrassing.  Traumatizing.  And unfortunately, defining. That damaging moment helped define my fit.  I felt that my ability to be fit was impossible because I based my fitness on someone else’s standards, when I should have based it on my own. 

Up to this past week, I still refused to attempt chin ups, always regressing back to that moment, remembering all the negativity that pooled around that one moment. The fear of failing again and again. The doubt that I could succeed. The heat that would rise in my cheeks from embarrassment.  The lack of confidence in what my body could achieve.   I still allowed my internal voice to say that I had too much body weight to be successful at an unassisted chin up.  There was no way I could do it.  But since I am trying to thrive in life and experience new challenges and growth, I knew I needed to change that mindset. I had to push those fears aside and embrace where I am now, not where I was.  So, this week was different.  This week I decided to no longer let that one memory define me. 

Knowing I have made great strides in my fitness and health over the past few months, I pushed back those doubts, refused to let junior high Lindsey reign victory over adult Lindsey, and put chin ups into my Sunday workout.  And I did some.  I didn’t do a lot, but I still did some.  Unassisted.   And for the first time when it came to chin ups, I smiled a genuine smile, not a nervous smile.  This might seem like a small feat to some, but for me, this was huge. For years, I kept telling myself I wasn’t capable, so I didn’t allow myself to even attempt the experience again.   The memories of the embarrassment and disappointment from a junior high fitness test danced around in my head, keeping me from finding my potential.  Stuck in that rut of “If I couldn’t do it then, I can’t do it now” mindset, caused me to miss out on opportunities to challenge myself  and experience something new.  I still allowed the standards and expectations of others to control what challenge I pushed myself to do because I assumed I would have the same outcome.  But my body—our bodies—are capable of more than we give credit.  The moment I quit listening to the voice that told me I was incapable and insignificant was the moment I felt free of the embarrassment and doubt.  It was a moment in this week that I made fitness possible.

When it comes to our fitness, our health, and our happiness, we tend to let past transgressions and past hurts dictate how we respond to similar situations that arise again.  So, I want to challenge you the next time you find yourself doubting your capabilities because of a previous moment in your journey, don’t let it be damaging.  Don’t let it be traumatizing.  Don’t let it be a negative definer.   Instead let it help you thrive.

  • Let that situation motivate you instead of drain you.  Let it fill you with something good.  Use it as fuel. Make it fuel to become better at something, to make an impact, to grow, to make a change, to influence.  Whatever your outcome is, let that be the definer instead..
  • Allow the situation to mold you into something great, not drag you to the ground in a cement block.  We tend to allow things to weigh us down, hold us to the ground, fixing us in a certain lifestyle or mindset when we should allow those things to shape and mold, giving us a foundation for us to continue expanding who we are.
  • Don’t let that moment tell you that you are insignificant.  You are significant.  Set your own standards.

When I stopped letting certain situations and certain baggage like past fitness embarrassment and unhealthy relationships with food control how I respond to challenges I face as an adult, I was able to really see not just what my body was capable of, but what I was capable of in every aspect of my life.    I found ways to push myself further in my fitness and health goals.  I found the inner strength to work on my outer strength.  I found ways to embrace every aspect of the experience, “failed” workouts and all. So, I want to challenge you this week.  What is weighing you down?  What are you still clutching onto that is hindering you from growing and experiencing something good? Free yourself from those damaging moments that you have allowed to define how you respond to people, situations, and challenges.  In doing so, you will learn just how significant, capable, and successful you can be with or without your chin up moment.

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