How Can Strength and Endurance Training Help You Heal

Why don't professionals talk about the importance of sexual healing for women and men that have been sexually abused as children and/or sexually assaulted? Its funny how many of us in society quickly come to the conclusion that all is well when we see these violated individuals appear to be coping and functioning well on a day to day basis. We talk about and do the research regarding the relationship between mental health and abuse a lot, speaking of depression and anxiety, but in much of the academic research publications, there is little to read about the process of sexual healing or how sexual abuse/assault has affected a woman's sexuality. I am not taking away the importance of mental health. However, why are we (e.g. health care professionals, researchers, and society) still afraid to talk about healthy sex and sexuality? It is a part of our mental and emotional health. How can we perceive that a woman's sexuality is in tact after chronic childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, or intimate partner violence where rape has occurred? Rape doesn't even have to occur. It is the misogyny, the sexism, the sexualization, and the discrimination towards women that deteriorates a woman's sexuality and sensuality.

During my decade long healing process, I peeled off many layers with my therapist. Mindfully, layers came off one by one as we continued to go deeper and deeper until I got into the unknown or abyss as I like to call it. Here in the abyss, things began to surface that I wasn't even consciously aware of. Somatic experiences would arise at the most impromptu times. After 10 years of healing, though, I learned well how to mindfully pay attention to my body, my mind, my emotions, my thoughts, and my surroundings all at the same time, so that I could be totally present to what was happening to me and work on figuring out why it was happening or what it was that I needed. I needed to understand. I needed to connect the dots. At the same time, I needed these bodily experiences to rise so that they could be processed and I could let go of them. This is how you let go . . . by processing the pain, but that's another post.

Anyway, in the past year, I had incredible healing and inner growth, and I account it to a very special team I met while in the Okanagan. Well, more so to one very special person, my personal coach and trainer. However, the environment I was in supported my growth, too. It was healthy, uplifting, and encouraging. And, so I must include all the other special humans I was privileged to meet at the gym we all worked out together in.

I moved to the Okanagan of B.C. to go back to university to attain another degree. Life with my husband was deteriorating. He asked for a divorce. After everything we went through and how I devotedly stood by him with his alcoholism and everything that goes with it, he asked for the divorce. I, sort of, shut down my coaching business and went back to university a few hundred miles away. I chose the fear-based route, but my head was foggy and I was a mental and emotional mess to feel like I could still be a coach with integrity. How could I coach others when I was falling apart? I felt like a fraud. School seemed like the best way to go. In hindsight, I realized I made a mistake. At the same time, I didn't make a mistake at all because I met some incredible and unforgettable individuals that triggered some extraordinary healing and great accomplishments in my fourth year. The healing of my sexuality, a forbidden place that was filled with shame and hate, the loss of 60 pounds and the transformation of my physique, and the completion of my first book soon to be published about violence against women and children. 

After my third year in university, I gained weight, again, neglecting my physical health because I was striving for honor grades which I achieved, but at a cost. I constantly yo-yo'd up and down while in school! I was sacrificing my health for grades, and I was miserable and disappointed. Disappointed with the program and disappointed in my self. How could I let myself go this far? I used to take care of my health, watch my weight, and exercise regularly. I'd get to the gym by 5 am, jog the neighborhood mountains and trails, kayak, or walk the seawalls. I'd do it in the sunshine or rain. Nothing ever stopped me. But at some point, I stopped caring, and when I reflect, it wasn't that I didn't take care of my health for the three years while in school. It was much longer than that. It was when I lost my zest for life, my zest for living. I was surviving, existing; barely at the surface of the water. When I really think about it, it was about ten years ago.

I was doing well in my head space, establishing my coaching business, and doing a lot of continuing and self-education. I was on a role practicing meditation, visualizations, and continuously setting goals. I had two coaches at this point that I was working with. Life, even while living with an alcoholic, seemed to be on the upswing. I was hanging on to threads, though, and using positive psychology to get me through it. THEN I got sick. Really sick. And no doctor could figure out why. They considered Lyme disease but couldn't find the ring. They insisted it wasn't the breast implants. Finally, they chalked it up to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After trying several alternative medicine methods, I gave up and I lost faith, but, in the process, I removed the Allergan textured breast implants which we now know affect the immune system causing a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. After about three and a half years of having them in, I got sick.

I was trying my hardest to leave an abusive relationship. I was trying to get financially independent, and then I got sick. My body was like cement. I needed naps throughout the day. I could barely move. My body ached. It felt like I had a constant flu bug with a sore throat and swollen cervical lymph nodes. My groin and armpits were tender and painful. My stomach didn't work well. I was bloated and cramping. I couldn't exercise anymore. My blood sugar would drop when I tried to exercise. Headaches were constant. I thought I was doing everything right, and then I got sick. I was so angry. I didn't care anymore. I wasn't happy in my life and my relationship, and with the choices I continued to make.

But when I reflect even deeper, it wasn't all of that either. It was my sexuality. I didn't feel sexy. I felt ugly. I hated who I was. I hated seeing my shadow let alone seeing my reflection in the mirror. I had a husband that didn't touch me, that barely talked to me, and rarely looked at me. I could see the hate in his eyes. How could he hate me, I thought, after all the abuse I took from him. The table has turned. I feebly took the abuse and now it's my fault he had to quit drinking. That was our negotiated deal when we married, though - I don't say anything about his drinking, I care for the kids and household, and he pays the bills. At the time, it was the best deal for me. At least I was safe (another story). But our verbal agreement was broken and someone had to be blamed.

Yet, it still goes deeper than all of this. I was brought up with a misogynist and chauvinistic father. I was surrounded by men sexualizing little girls and women. Sexism was predominant my entire life as it was for many girls and women. I am not alone in this. This is a systemic problem and it is affecting all women. At the same time, I experienced repetitive sexual abuse and sexual assaults. How could I like myself. I loathed myself. Sex was a chore or a duty to fulfill. It wasn't about intimacy and respect. It was about service. So, as I went through the healing process peeling off layer after layer, I finally got to the deeper issues buried in my body through somatic experiences, and it all started to happen when I made the decision to not only lose weight but to transform my body and took on physical training like I've never done before.

I took a step back and said to myself, "I'd give up a 4.0 grade-point average to attain better health" (but I actually maintained it to my surprise). I set goals and hard deadlines, and I played full out. I meant it. I just kept thinking about how I would feel if I gave up and quit on myself again. That was enough to keep me going. I chose a gym close to home, and I happened to fall into a trainer that 'looked' like he trained and meant it. As a coach and understanding the coaching process, I knew I needed help. This was my weak spot - food, exercise, and body image. I needed someone to hold me accountable and to get me through the rough edges.

Over time and continuously moving up to the next level of fitness and strength training, I started to have somatic experiences where unpleasant feelings would arise. Most of you probably already know that when you exercise, you need intense and deliberate focus to get through the training. It's tough and it hurts. The burn and fatigue are intense! So the more conditioned I got and the stronger I got, or the higher the weights I'd lift, the more I had to focus and the deeper my mental state got. At some point, I began my own plank self-challenge. The first time I did it at home, I had the most intense anger that rose up as I was holding the position. It came out of no where. I dropped after about six minutes and started sobbing uncontrollably. And, this was the start of my very deep healing. I took all somatic experiences to the conversations I had with my therapist. I talked it out contemplating all of his questions. One thing was for certain, I was ready to deal with the 'sex' part of my life, and it was time to let these bodily experiences rise so they could be processed and moved through. My mind tried to talk me out of it at times, but I didn't listen. I wasn't giving in to the mind chatter anymore! Writing my book allowed me to heal as well. By writing the most poignant and transformational events in my life with so such detailed information allowed me to get into the corners where darkness was hiding. And by physically training with such focus and intensity my body began to release.

My trainer was baffled to what I shared with him when it came to the somatic experiences, but what was cool about him is that no matter what I'd share, he listened and empathized every step of the way. I shared everything - the good, the bad, and the ugly! The more I shared, the more I was able to be myself. I opened up to who I was, not hiding any little piece of darkness. I didn't have to hide from him because I told him everything. Isn't that what we are supposed to do with our coaches? When they know every little detail of us, they know how to inspire and motivate us. They know what makes us tick. It is a two way street, this relationship, and he just made me want to tick with him. It was his demeanor, his attitude, his consideration, and his kindness. It was him speaking truthfully to me about me, what I can do, what I was made of, and what I was becoming. I've never had a coach like this before, and he was exactly what I needed because in the process of letting myself out from hiding, I felt my sexuality come alive. I felt sexy. I felt happy. I felt inspired to be and do more. I don't even know if he really knows what he's done for or to me. He was what I was praying for to bring out my aliveness and to feel the zest in life. I came to realize that there are amazing men out in the world that are respectful, loving, and affectionate. This man changed my way of being, brought out the best in me, and allowed me to see the world and myself differently. I am in deep gratitude for what he has given me and that I opened up to receive it. 

It wasn't only my trainer. I did the work. I put in the effort. I made the commitment to change. I shoveled the sh**, sort of speak, but it was the respect and support that I received that was priceless and supported my healing. 

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