For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing something I never thought I would: lunging and lifting and hopping in group crossfit-style classes. And I’m completely enamoured of it.
I’ve tried crossfitty/boot campy things before, but every time I ended up hurting myself. (One time — with a 23 year old instructor — I couldn’t roll over in bed without waking myself up yelping in pain for about two weeks). The last time I did it — at my gym — the instructor (a guy in his early 20s) sort of mocked me for trying to hold a yoga-like form in lunges. “Faster!” And I don’t like doing things without attention to form. I end up hurting myself. It makes me angry. It makes me feel not looked after. It makes a mockery of every single thing I have ever learned about my body.
In most of my adult life, I have stuck to the things I know won’t hurt me — riding, running, free weights, spinning, yoga. And the things that don’t involve a lot of instruction — I’m not very good at translating verbal cues to my body without help.
But I’ve have been in a bit of a movement rut. I was sick a good chunk of the first part of the year, and I tried to do the challenge with my spinning studio I wrote about in January. I didn’t manage all of it — bronchitis will do that — but I did take on board the idea of trying a new gym.
And then a few weeks ago, I was walking past a fitness studio about a block from my house, and I made about my 50th mental note to check it out. Then about six hours later, ads for it started to appear in my social media feeds. I am pretending this is not creepy — I am letting it be a sign. So the next day, I showed up and asked them to show me what they do.
It’s a fitness studio for women call Move, which I’d assumed was some kind of fancy gym, but it turns out to be an amazing blend of focused, no holds barred strength-building classes. The fancy part is nice towels and a little sauna and kiehls products — but the gym is all about the best kind of hard work.
I did a class that day and I was hooked. My instructor at the first class was the young Aussie Alice, and I have never been so well cued, so well supported. I watched as she demonstrated form over and over, and told new people not to try anything until she had made sure they knew how to do it without hurting themselves, were targeting the right areas. She was affirmative in a deep and authentic way. I felt incredibly strong, and incredibly cared for in finding my own level.
Over the next few weeks, I’ve been back to several classes, and every instructor is the same. Careful demonstration, careful observation and adjustments, advice for every individual in the class. There’s a sense of community and child-minding and smoothies. And most important, there is a kind of positivity I rarely find — not cheerleading, just presence and revelling in the strength and intuitive wisdom of women living fully in their bodies.
Last night, Alice was demonstrating pushups and referred to the ones that are typically called “girl pushups” as “patriarchy pushups” — and in her distinctive Aussie way, said, “they invented these to tell us we can’t lift our own bodies, but that’s bullllllllshit.”
The founder Kelly is honest about her own journey that brought her to this place of focusing on strength — a journey through personal training, body building, disordered eating and addictive exercise — landing in a place of recovery that is about strength, not weight or looking good to someone else’s standards:
“My Team and I are here to actively and passionately be a part of the change and create a movement of warriors dedicated to changing the internal question from “how do I look” to “how do I feel?” In our opinion, far more important than how a woman’s ass looks in an Instagram post, no? “
This is a place where I feel at home. We are in community, but we are each very much doing our own things. There are always modifications for every action, and encouragement to try the things in your edges. An inherent assumption that everyone will get stronger. Support for each other if we can’t quite get the moves. Warmth to the sleep-deprived parents in the class.
Two Saturdays ago, I was noticing that I’m one of the oldest people in most classes. And then I realized Kelly — who is 8 months pregnant — was working out with us. And another woman whose baby was due in 2 weeks was in there too. All modified for what we need.
After 25 years of working out, this feels like a whole new dimension for me — I am feeling confident about doing things I thought I my body couldn’t handle — like lunges and jumps. I’m interweaving these classes with yoga, with spinning, with walking, with rest. I already look and feel stronger. And yesterday, I held an unsupported handstand for a few seconds for the first time in my life.
As I hopped down from that a thought flickered across my mind — this is FUN. And I realized that I’ve never really felt that about working out before. I love it, and need it, and enjoy it — but I rarely have FUN. And this is fun.
Where do you feel this kind of convergence of everything you need in moving your body?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and dangles from things in Toronto, and who writes here twice a month and whenever else she needs to say something.