Editor’s Note: Today’s story comes from Shilpa, who has a story that I think a lot of us can relate to about realizing that “skinny” was not the goal. However, she has also overcome something that hopefully not as many of us can relate to–and emerged from the other side as a stronger person and, by the looks of it, a badass climber!
My story with health and fitness is long and maybe a little convoluted – but then again, whose isn’t? I’ll give you a sneak peak right now – for me, health and fitness is important because it’s all about having in-body experiences as opposed to out-of-body experiences, and ultimately becoming the best version of my best self. Sounds like hippy-dippy woo-woo crazy, right? I know, but stick with me here.
Like many women, my experiences with my health and body have been up and down. In high school, I was obsessed with being thin, until I made friends with a girl at my school who turned me onto running, and onto marching to the beat of my own drum. I slowly started actively rejecting unrealistic images of beauty, wearing mismatched socks on purpose (because, did it really matter in high school?), and buying clothes that were comfortable instead of whatever was trendy.
Sometime in college, I fell in love with rock climbing, and followed that love around the world – traveling all over the US, and to a handful of other countries (Mexico, Argentina for starters) in the pursuit of developing as a climber. I started working for an outdoor education program teaching climbing – absolutely living the dream. Somehow, slowly but surely, I became more and more comfortable in my own skin and more and more hooked on that feeling of trying something new, of pushing my physical abilities just a little further, and of seeing improvement.
And then, I had a scary, terrible experience with violence. I don’t want to delve into details – but the one thing to know is that there’s nothing like trauma to make you run away from your body, because being in your body means feeling the anxiety, the roller coaster of emotions and everything else that comes with that territory. The other thing to know is that having this experience (ugly and harmful as it was) ultimately made me into a fitter, healthier and overall stronger person.
More and more research now tells us that connecting with our bodies, living in them instead of ignoring them, has huge benefits to our mental and emotional health (in addition to our physical health). And so, in my process of healing, I tried to be in my body as much as possible. And, that looked a lot of different ways. Climbing, of course, played a huge role, as did meditating and eventually, CrossFit.
And so, being fit and healthy holds an immensely important space in my life because it brings me back to my body, and it is how I found my way back to complete health – emotional, mental and physical. Paying attention to my body forces me to really experience all the sensations – the gobey (climber talk for abrasion) that’s forming on my hand from the crack that I’m climbing, the burning in my quads as I’m trying for one more rep in a WOD, the various tensions and opening that come from allowing memories to come up during meditation – and by experiencing all of these things, it allows me to feel alive like nothing else. And, the more that I can do this, the more that I can hold space for the painful burn and the awesome feelings of accomplishment, the further along I creep towards being my best self just a little more frequently.