part 5: divas also sweat (and other lessons the Russian Princess taught me)

This is part four in the series about how I began to figure my shit out. If you haven’t yet, please read part one, where I set the stage, part two, where I started to self-analyze, and part three, where I explored the power of vulnerability. All four posts in this series were originally written early in 2013, but each has been substantially edited in an effort to be even more raw and honest. I plan to finish this series with a brand new post, recalling a pivotal moment that happened a day after the events described below.

Originally posted Feb 20, 2013 – edited

photo-3The passage of time sometimes offers the gift of clarity.

I’m finally able to see what I took away from my week at fat camp. I have a clearer picture of who I was going in, and who I have become since then.

I’ve shared details about the horrible start to my week: how I pushed too hard and wound up dehydrated. In the days that followed, my energy continued to drop, as did my blood pressure, while my resting heart rate climbed sky-high. Disturbing? Yes. Enough to make me quit? No.

I couldn’t lose face. Couldn’t admit to being broken.

So I carried on.

I woke up each morning at 5:30 am to attend an optional yoga class at 6:00 am. All classes at BLR were mandatory except for this one. Many chose to sleep in. But the Russian Princess went to 6:00 am yoga, so you better believe I went with her.

Next up was the daily hike.

I love hiking, yet I found myself dreading each morning hike, knowing it would defeat me, knowing it would suck the life out of me, leaving me broken and weak for the afternoon’s three back to back fitness classes.

By day four, I was a shell; going through the motions, but just barely holding it together. The Russian and I got split up that day; she wanted some extra challenge, so she moved up to a faster hiking group. I joined our usual group, tried to get my head in the game, and willed myself to just get through it.

Then it started to rain.

And just like in that Albert Hammond song, It Never Rains in Southern California

It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours, man, it pours 

And, man, it poured.

I was soaked through every layer of clothing, right down to my sports bra and underwear; the lot of it plastered to my cold, clammy skin. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such total and utter despair.

It wasn’t the toughest physical challenge I’d ever endured, but it was the perfect storm. Mentally, I was broken. Physically, my body was in system shut-down mode. And as an added bonus, the skies had decided to rage their fury all over my pity party.

The rain served one practical purpose though: it camouflaged my tears. Finally I could cry openly, without worry of others seeing.

This was my ‘rock bottom’. This hike, on this day, in the pouring rain, was my moment of surrender.

As soon as the van arrived back at the resort I ran to my room, peeled off each rain-soaked layer, and wrapped myself in a bathrobe, shivering. I couldn’t warm up. Teeth chattering, I crawled into bed, pulling the covers up over my head, hugging myself.

And I had a deep, soul cleansing, cry.

The Russian knocked playfully as she walked passed my room, yelling enthusiastically through the closed door, “Hey beautiful, I’ll come call on you in 10 minutes!”

I mumbled something back as I lay there, confounded by her energy. How was it possible that I felt so shitty and she was thriving? Why wasn’t she hurting the way I was?

This was the moment I realized that I was looking at my friend as my competition.

I choked on the ugliness of that thought.

I had to face the truth though. As I watched her take on more, go faster, push harder, and do it all with a smile and great attitude, I grew more and more jealous.

For this I am profoundly sorry, and also immensely ashamed.

Moments later, she came to my room to pick me up for our next class: an outdoor pool session. It was still raining and 55 degrees out. I was still shaking like a leaf, unable to regulate my body temperature.

When I answered the door, my face red and bloated from all my crying, she called me out on it, “Baby, have you been crying?“, she asked. I turned away, in shame, knowing the tears would come if I attempted to answer.

She pulled me in and hugged me tight, then demanded to know what was wrong. How could I explain that which I didn’t even understand? Was it physical? Of course, my body was clearly breaking down on me. But it was the mental anguish that hurt the most. I was an emotional basket-case. I didn’t know what to say, so I just stood there and cried for a minute.

It felt good to be held and hugged.

She told me to stay in my room and rest. That was all I needed to hear. It gave me the push to try that pool class. It felt good to know that someone knew I was hurting, and that I had permission to do whatever I needed to do to honour my body.

We walked arm in arm to the pool, where we were asked to pick partners.

No brainer.

And then it dawned on me: THIS IS MY PARTNER!

A partner who was there to support me, regardless of whether I kicked ass or sucked ass. A partner who wouldn’t judge me for being weak. A partner for life.

I went from bawling my eyes out moments earlier to laughing out loud in that pool. During one exercise, she had to swim the length of the pool and back while I played the role of a victim, treading water while lifting a medicine ball high over my head. She is not the strongest swimmer, but she was doing everything she could to get there and back quickly, knowing I was still hurting. I goaded her on, screaming, “C’MON Russkie…I’m drowning…SWIM..FASTER!

I loved her so much for swimming her little heart out to save me.

And just like that I realized how ridiculous it was for me to ever view her as anything but my ally, my friend, my partner.


Partners in crime since 1999

That day, in that pool, things turned around for me. My mental state changed. My emotional state changed. And physically, my week turned around. I grew stronger with each activity, including achieving a couple of big personal bests in the days that followed. Moreover, I was finally able to feel true joy for my Russian Princess when she achieved milestones of her own.

That week I learned many important lessons:

  • Our minds can have a profound effect over our bodies. If I hadn’t lived it, I’m not sure I’d have believe it myself. The difference between how I felt physically before Thursday and after Thursday was night and day.

  • You can’t be your best or do your best while harbouring toxic feelings, like jealousy, inside. Same goes for unhealthy comparisons or competitiveness. Let it go.

  • You can’t be happy for others if you aren’t truly happy with yourself. It’s as simple and as powerful as that.

Loving yourself, being proud of yourself, and being good to yourself is critical to having loving and healthy relationships with anyone else.

I am so thankful for my week of torture at the Biggest Loser Resort because of the journey of discovery that followed.

Mostly, though, I’m grateful to my amazing and beautiful friend, the Russian Princess, for leading by example, and making me feel loved and supported when I needed it most.

Thank you, love you, owe you.


A bond that strengthened after a week of torture

To skip straight on over to the final post in this series, click here.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

46 thoughts on “part 5: divas also sweat (and other lessons the Russian Princess taught me)

  1. That breakdown sounds pretty cosmic: body, mind, and spirit being cracked open to be recreated. Your description was lovely and moving. Thanks for these old posts. John

    • The original version was far more sterile. I’d been working on the rewrite for several days but it still didn’t tell the real story. Finally yesterday I sat down for a few hours and decided to write this as if only my eyes would ever read it. It is difficult to bare this much of my ugliness, but I know it had to happen.
      Thank you for reading, John. Your comments always give me something to think about.

    • p.s. The next post I write (hopefully in the next couple of days) will be about that memory your comment about racing triggered for me. Thank you for inspiring that future post!

  2. this is am amazing breakthrough!!

    I felt so sad for you at the start of this, I know how all of those things feel (although I don;t think I experienced them in such an apocalyptic way) and you are so right it is really really important to have friends to support you! I am so glad you had such a good one!!

    you have come such a long way! I am so proud 😀

    I am also aware of that sort of rain in California…I got that wet in the middle of the parade ground at Alcatraz the only time I have ever been to that side of the world! thankfully noone was making me hike…

    • I had heard about (and seen examples of) people making themselves physically sick from things like stress, etc. But this experience proved to me the clear link between what we feel/think and how we feel (physically). Nothing I had done that week was above my capability level (sure, it was many hours of exercise – more than I had ever done in one sitting) but it wasn’t activity that I was incapable of. The fact that my body shut down (energy level, blood pressure, heart rate) was proof positive that my mind and all the toxic thoughts and feelings it harbored were having a profoundly negative effect on my physical body.

      Sometimes you have to experience the dark before you get to the light. I know that you’ve experienced that journey too…

      • youa re so right!
        It is amazing how much an effect your mind can have on your physical wellbeing!
        when I was teaching I had absolutely debillitating dizziness to the point where I went for MRI scans and all sorts, I am 99% sure now that they were manifestations of stress!

        when someone says to me “it is all in your head” I always reply with “that doesn’t make it any less real!!”

        It is important sometimes to experience those things, to make you realise what changes you need to make!

      • “It’s all in your head” is actually a worse diagnosis! If something is purely physical, it can often be treated with drugs or other remedies. When it’s in your head, that’s when the REALLY hard work needs to take place!

        It was uncomfortable, painful, ugly, but…. also beautiful and vital. Without experiencing all of that I wouldn’t have made the realizations, breakthroughs and changes.

      • Exactly, the fact that it is all in your head means you have to do a lot of serious work on Yourself, and even admitting g that is a massive hurdle!!

        You have come so far since then that it makes it all so worthwhile 😀

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  4. Wonderful beautiful and heart-opening post, NT. I’m glad that Russkie friend didn’t let you “drown” . . . and even more delighted that you ALLOWED that shift of perspective from negative toxicity to LAUGHTER.

    I’ve watched people wallowing in toxic shit of their own creation while RESISTING life lines tossed their way to save them ~> in ignorance, they’d rather HANG ON to their petty resentments and jealousies while playing the Blame Game and struggling against the current.

    When we WAKE UP and become AWARE, we know we can just LET GO, go with the flow, and BE FREE. A much better way/place to BE.


    • Thank you so much, NH. I considered this to have been the most difficult post I had ever written back in Feb 2013, and it retained that distinction until this week, when I found myself working on the rewrite. I had to force myself to shake off the fear of what others would think in order to rework the original into the story that deserved to be told. It’s been a rough couple of days, but I’m so glad I finally bared my soul fully.

      • “This was the moment I realized that I was looking at my friend as my competition.
        I choked on the ugliness of that thought.”

        From my perspective (without being privy to your internal landscape), competing with a friend is unnecessary, but not “ugly” ~> “ugly” is wishing someone (we profess to love) would fall flat on his or her face to make US look better. That’s UGLY! 😛

        “As I watched her take on more, go faster, push harder, and do it all with a smile and great attitude, I grew more and more jealous. For this I am profoundly sorry, and also immensely ashamed.”

        Maybe we don’t need to be ashamed of our thoughts (even the icky ones) or ashamed of our shame because they aren’t really “our thoughts” or “our shame” ~> that toxicity belong to Ego (the false self, the illusionist, the imposter, the story-teller) who will do anything to keep us off balance.

        Ego knows that as long as we’re struggling against the roiling waves it creates, that we will be too busy to toss him overboard. So he will live to create havoc another day.

        Once we “wake up” . . . we see that we are NOT the thoughts we think. Instead, we are the OBSERVER of those thoughts ~ we watch them pop up like the ducks at the shooting gallery on the midway. Over time, our reflexes and aim gets better and we can shoot the shit out of toxic thoughts as soon as they arise. And we see that Ego is just a big fat QUACK! :mrgreen:

      • What a healthy way to look at it, NH. Thank you!
        You’re right. Ego absolutely drove those thoughts and feelings. And ego will always be a factor. He is a persistent bastard. To your point though, the secret sauce will lie in my ability to identify ego as soon as it pops up so that I can shoot that plucky mofo.

  5. Mind over matter, right? Getting the mind on the same page as the workout is key, as is having a supportive workout bud. That’s a big one as well.

    • I think it was a lot more than that, Rob. This wasn’t the same as “I don’t feel like going for a run today” (a feeling I often experience). This was some deep-rooted shit. This is the stuff that was ingrained into my psyche. I’m not sure that a mind-over-matter mantra would address the depth of the issues I was facing.

      I’ve never had an addiction or had to go through a 12-step program, but from everything I know about that process: hitting rock bottom, surrendering, admitting you’re broken, that how you’re living your life isn’t working, is key. A painful, but vital, realization for me.

      • You’re lucky to have found that moment, Nancy. I had to work with HR once on an employee that was having issues. I spoke to the HR person about hitting rock bottom, and he told me that some people never hit rock bottom. That put a lump in my throat.

      • I do consider myself to be very lucky to have gone through all of this because I’m in a much healthier place now. (And I don’t just mean physically healthier…)

  6. It’s that moment where everything falls apart where we figure out the best ways to “fix” ourselves. What an amazing journey. Not only did you find out how to take care of and listen to yourself, but you solidified a bond with a friend. I love reading this stuff, Nancy. Also, I’m glad you went to “fat camp” so that I don’t have to… Because quite frankly, that week sounds horrifying.

    • Ha! It was pretty torturous, Martha …but…I totally recommend it.

      There were people there who barely showed up, if you know what I mean. Yes, they came to all the classes, but they would stop in the middle of a cardio program, saunter over SLOWLY to the water cooler to refill their bottle, take their time sauntering back… So, the truth is, the week is as torturous as you want it to be. You can really push & challenge yourself or you can go through the motions. I saw people doing both, and a big bunch that fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Knowing what I know about you, you would definitely torture yourself by going hard at every workout, every day. 🙂

  7. Wow, what a breakthrough, Nancy! Very honest and open, I congratulate you!

    I have been that miserable before, but it was all mental. More like just shutting down and not doing anything, other than crying, eating, or feeling sorry for myself. But then, I don’t push myself physically the way you do. Physical activity to me has always been more of a stress relief vs cause of stress. My misery has come from comparing myself, but not in athletic prowess. More like everything else in life: not being thin enough, rich enough, kind enough, and the list goes on and on. 😉

    I really appreciate you sharing these posts and your process, because it has made me consider my own journey as well.

  8. What a horrible rock bottom moment!! That was very brave of you to re-open all those raw feelings, but an amazing triumph to come out better and stronger on the other side!
    I love that line – you can’t be or do your best while harbouring toxic feelings. I think that’s one I’m going to hang onto for a while.

  9. LOVE this, Diva Nancy! Glad that you cried it out and then laughed it out. I feel better having an image of you kicking ass rather than sucking ass!! 🙂 It is so true that you cannot love others unless you love yourself. Great pics. 🙂

  10. Oh boy, Nancy what a post! Traveling through that rock bottom feeling of physical and emotional breakdown when the tears won’t stop and then experiencing the freedom of finally breaking through is something that I think can’t be fully explained with words but you came pretty darn close here today.

    • Rewriting this one was exhausting, but when it published this morning I was at peace and happy to have been more up front about my feelings than I was in the original. Thanks for your support Lisa.

  11. A touching description of break-through realizations, Nancy! I’m happy that Thursday came. I truly believe mind has great power over our body. Beautiful post!

  12. Pingback: the power of perspective | my year[s] of sweat!

  13. What a wonderful story. So heartbreakingly lovely. Those moments when we feel so alone, when nothing is going right and we just want to put ourselves in a cocoon and shut the world out, and then you see that you aren’t alone, and that there are others that truly love you, on a cosmic level! I’m not surprised that your breakdown came in the middle of a hike – that seems very fitting 🙂

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  15. Pingback: the power of perspective | my year of sweat

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