Solcana has given me a life I never thought I could achieve, one where working out is not about plowing through the hard and the painful, but rather building blocks to a happier relationship with my body.
It wasn’t always this way. My mental health has always run my life. From disordered eating, body dysphoria, and being surrounded by others who also suffered from negative body image, I navigated a life of constant body shaming.
I had never seen anyone exemplify a positive relationship with their body. I grew up believing that bodies were just something no one felt comfortable in; a random, fleshy organ that you couldn’t, despite all your best efforts, ever change.
Now, I’ll fast-forward over the part about me transitioning and what that was like because this is a blog not a novel. Spoiler alert: body hate and shame transcends gender and time. One of the aspects of my transition was medication, something I’m very familiar with, as I’ve been on one or several medications at a time for the majority of my life. I thought the most annoying part would be remembering to take them.
But on the month of my 21st birthday, I developed hives all over my body. Over the course of a week they spread from my back to my feet, arms, and legs. I couldn’t even use my hands because the swelling was so painful, I wasn’t able to sleep because my skin felt like it was on fire, and I experienced pain just from breathing. I struggled for two weeks before I recognized it was an allergic reaction to one of my medications. My doctor recommended stopping all of my meds immediately—even three that are highly discouraged to stop taking cold turkey.
As such, things went from bad to worse and I was put on suicide watch on my birthday. I hit the lowest of lows, crawling in my own skin, not knowing if I could see myself actually enduring an entire lifespan in a body that I continually felt shame and hate towards.
Once I was back on the right medications (no hives!) I realized that lowest of lows was something I never wanted to experience again. So my goal of my 21st year on earth became one single thing: Learning to love my body.
In the past, I would have defined loving my body as losing 50 pounds, getting six-pack abs, sticking to a strict routine that I hated, eating only salads, discovering my secret athletic talent… I knew none of that would work long-term. Instead, I walked into Solcana.
The first time I stepped into Solcana I was greeted by people of all body shapes, sizes, genders, and ages working towards their own definition of the healthiest version of themselves. For the first time in my life, I was asked what exercise made me feel good, not what it could do for my body. It gave me the epiphany that exercise didn’t have to mean suffering. I could actually enjoy it. In fact, it would become the starting point and highlight of my day. The first step towards a productive day at work and the key to a new world that didn’t involve seeing my body and shaming it, but rather seeing my soul for how strong it has become.
At first, I really struggled with the lack of mirrors at Solcana. I had been trained from a young age that gyms are where people go to watch themselves work out. From my first experience in a gym my first year of middle school, those mirrors were an ever present reminder that my body did not look like it was “supposed to.” It made me critique myself on the way something was projected back to me instead of how my body felt doing that movement. I was so nervous about the way others saw me that I didn’t listen to my own body about how it felt.
So, the first thing I had to get used to at Solcana was sitting with that discomfort of not knowing what my body looked like while I was working out. I had to figure out which stretches felt good, where the bar needed to land, or how wide my sumo deadlift stance needed to be by listening to–not looking at–my body. I realized that the lack of mirrors also meant I couldn’t compare myself to others. I started tuning in to myself and listening to everything my body hinted at. Adjusting accordingly when something felt sticky, or tight, letting my breath deepen my stretches, not watching how far everyone else could stretch and pushing myself to someone else’s level. Solcana realizes that everyone’s “healthy” looks different, something that I have seen very few gyms prioritize, let alone CrossFit gyms.
This experience has allowed me to get real about loving my body and bringing as much enthusiasm as I can with me to the gym. I try my best to fuel others and let them fuel me. At first I felt a little like I was faking it, but then I realized that no, it was just this good. I could actually just be my whole self and pump others up through that last round. Cheer on a partner that I have never met before that day. Or break it down, booty bumpin’ dancing moves. (Equally important.) This is how working out started to feel.
Each day felt like a little challenge that I could conquer, pushing as hard as I can, which on some days means beating my PR, and other days just means showing up. But I’ll still be there, and my coach will still make me feel like I am one of the most incredible athletes in the world, and halfway through that terrible 3×8 front squat I know someone will yell my name across the gym because that’s we what we do at Solcana. When we lift, we also lift each other up. We bring the weight of our individual traumas into the gym and leave it all on the floor, replacing it with love for our bodies, ourselves, and each other.