Fitness has always been a bit of an intimidating word to me. I’m often asked what I do to help me stay in shape as a mermaid and the truth is, I’ve done a lot. But not a whole lot of it has been… effective!
When I started dating my merwrangler years ago, he got me into the gym. He’s been going since he was 15 years old and had a pretty standard routine. I didn’t know my head from my tail at the gym. I bought a few personal training sessions. They weren’t anything out of this world, just a basic introduction to the gym.
Unfortunately at this point in my life I started getting very seriously ill. It would take a few years to figure out what exactly with, but eventually I was diagnosed with a barrage of issues- which naturally all reared at once. Endometriosis was the worse- landing me in the hospital every month and burning my stomach with pain killers. Interstitial cystitis was the hardest on my immune system, and combined with minor scoliosis It wreaked havoc on my back, hips, legs, and pelvic floor. The combined issues made it very difficult for me to walk for a time, and left me In chronic pain constantly. Dyspraxia was the one that made the most sense. It was combined with my learning disability and was responsible for my low muscle tone, terrible coordination and balance, and inability to tie my shoes well enough (yes, it actually makes it hard to tie your shoes. Daniel Radcliff of Harry Potter fame has it!) Fibromyalgia was my most recent diagnoses. By the time we got there I was pretty pissed. I knew for sure because of testing methods that I had the other illnesses, but fibro is a bit of a melting pot and it would take a year before I was convinced that the pain in my ribs and joints was a result of it. If you’re wondering, they’ve tracked most of these illnesses back to the fact I was born 3 months premature and my immune system never developed properly.
I do a lot to combat these issues. Healthy diet. Resting when I need it. Yoga. Floats (the best thing ever go look that up), massage, physio, and chiropractor as well. (Chiro is different in Canada than in the US, and I find it helps realign my hips which lessens the stress on my pelvic floor). I also live scent free as I have found certain chemicals trigger chronic pain responses too.
I turned 30 in November and I admit, I had a bit of an identity crisis. I feel like I’m not where I want to be, but I sure am on the path. This is the year I get my braces off! (Yes I am the adult with sparkly amazing braces) I also finish getting my driver’s license (laugh all you want, haha) I got a “big girl job” where I am finally being paid for my skills and education while doing something I love, and my business has taken off. But I don’t like what I see when I look in the mirror. I see a rundown woman, bags under her eyes, a protruding belly, flabby arms and legs that can’t walk upstairs or lift groceries, and a double chin that won’t quit.
My friend put it into great words. What’s the use of spending all this money on mermaid tails, if you can’t use em? I feel like that’s the point where I am.
So. I decided to look into personal training. But not just any personal trainer. I wanted someone who had experience working with people who had to cope with a lot. Someone who could help me identify the key areas I needed to work on both for my illnesses, and for my mermaid work. I wanted someone who could motivate me, push me, but also understood my limits are different than the average person. I wanted someone who was up for a challenge.
Enter “R”. I saw R’s profile at my local gym and fired him an email almost as long as this blog post. As my friend Venessa would call it, I wrote him a Novella. R had all the qualities I was looking for in a trainer. He also had a full work load. But he agreed to meet me.
We scheduled a meeting and I showed up feeling nervous. I’d poured my heart into this email but wondered if I freaked him out or overshared. If you can’t tell already from my writing style- I do that sometimes! R invited me into his office where we started talking about my goals. He was very excited to help me and said that even though he had the full work load he couldn’t pass up helping a mermaid. Plus he felt he really did have the skills to help me overcome my specific issues.
He showed me his plan for me and I was a bit overwhelmed at first. I can’t lift a bag of groceries and he said by the end of everything I’d be dead lifting 200lbs. (I still have a hard time imagining that). I can’t do a single pushup or chinup. He also said I’ll be able to do those. Squats are hell, and apparently I’ll be able to do them while holding weights! It all sounds like it was beyond me, but R’s plan was based on a year of training, twice a week.
Yeah. Caught me off guard too. But for my body, it takes much longer than the average person to build these neural and muscular pathways, along with muscle memory, and flexibility. R didn’t believe it would be as effective if we didn’t go for a year, and come at it hard. That would allow enough time to break things down into smaller more achievable goals. I wasn’t totally sold… yet.
As I spoke to R about my insecurities I started to realize I was holding back tears. I just met this guy; I did not want to cry in his office. But it was an epiphany for me of just how bad I actually do feel about myself. I mainly feel incapable. He asked me what my key word would be if I could describe my perfect state when I am done the training. I told him capable. He told me that would be our motivating word during our time together.
He took me out to the gym to do an assessment. I showed him how I did things like squats and he made very minor adjustments to help me correct my form and posture, and I felt an almost instant relief on my pelvic floor. You know, it’s not fun to tell a man you have pelvic floor problems. That is an awkward conversation to have. So I was a bit sparse on those details. But R knew enough to have a sense of what things I needed to change in order to help that group of muscles stretch. We did a few more things and I was floored at the difference. I could tell right away this was what I needed. He even corrected my negative self-talk which I didn’t realize I was doing until he pointed it out.
We went back to his office to talk payment plans. He showed me different packages, none of them cheap. I settled on the smaller one which was still big enough to give my boyfriend a heart attack and let me buy a few mermaid tails. I’ll be honest, I let my impulsivity take over. I never ever ever spend anything like that without discussing with my partner. I do not just spend money ever. We have struggled with poverty. I am not comfortable spending money. But something in me just took over and I signed on the dotted line and promptly burst into tears the instant I admitted to Sean what it cost.
The ride home from the gym was a weird one. Sean grappled with the amount of money, but also tried to be supportive. I cried a lot, because as I talked with him and started admitting some of my insecurities and fears, everything just sort of broke out from behind this wall I didn’t even know I had. The whole thing had been very emotional for me. I’d become aware of just how far back I was, but also saw a glimmer of light for what I could become with hard work.
It took a day for everything to sink in. I found myself apologizing to Sean constantly, while he reassured me everything was ok, he was mostly in shock. After all. I just signed on for my new “big girl” job. In addition to running my business full time, I took another job because I am a crazy person. I am training pilots. Yeah. You read that correctly. I am full of surprises aren’t I?
Sean said it basically came down to my quality of life. This chunk of money and chunk of time will hopefully set me up for success the rest of my life. It’s also real action I can personally take to help my illnesses and pain, while I wait for months/years in the Canadian medical system for the other help and support I need. I cried a lot over the weekend. I was exhausted from back to back gigs and travelling and 40 hour work weeks on top of it. I maybe wasn’t in the best emotional state to make such a big decision. But I made it.
Flash forward to today. Today I had my first training session. I had to work extra early at my day job to be able to leave early enough to make the appointment. Oh boy do I hate getting up early. I wore a weeki wachee mermaid shirt and packed gym pants and sneakers. I had a travel cup courtesy of my mer-friend Nicole that I filled with water, and I arrived early enough to warm up on a cardio machine to try and get myself through my tin man wall.
R met me with a smile and good energy. We started with squats- which I sucked at- but we worked on them 3 different sets. I did arm extensions with a resistance cord to teach me how to properly hold and move my shoulders in several sets. I did special core moves on a giant ball which made me feel like I was practicing some terrible chair dance routine- but they worked my abs WITHOUT hurting my pelvic floor. I have always struggled with ab work (vital to a mermaid) because it would trigger pelvic floor spasms which basically feel like a giant Charlie horse in your abdomen that can last for days. So just being able to do any kind of core routine felt like a success. I did step ups and awkwardly lifted free weights that were all of 5lbs and worried I might accidentally hit my trainer in the face with them. I couldn’t help but laugh at how pitiful I looked in the mirror, arms shaking under a mere 5lbs. But hey, I guess everyone’s got to start somewhere- right? I also sucked at side planks- which felt like mermaid posing. It’s hard for me to believe I will get better… haha
The final thing I did was stretching. Because of all these issues I have my hips are insanely tight, and it is the tight hips that cause most of the pelvic issues. So I laid on the mats while R manipulated my legs around, my hips, my back, and pushed on me. I had to go to my happy place. It hurt like hell even though I knew he was barely applying pressure. My body twitched, I knew I was sweating worse now than when I was actually moving a lot, and I could feel the burn. I had to take deep breaths and just trust that R wasn’t ripping all my tendons (he really wasn’t)
When we finally finished the stretching I stood up and couldn’t believe the range of motion I already had in my hips and legs. I was actually taken aback and R had to ask me at one point if I was ok because I had a little shock. The difference was drastic. I felt like one of those cowboy cartoons where they walk around with their legs out to the side. Did legs actually spread out this far? Hah! I could actually feel that my pelvic floor muscles were stretched out. Normally when I work out I feel like I’m on the verge of a Charlie horse. Like any wrong move would cause a kink of unknown proportions. But not this time. I felt stupid giddy and happy.
I wobbled my way out to Sean. Between the squats and the stretching my legs felt like jelly. But I had the best rush of endorphins ever. And you know what? I finally felt like this is something I can achieve. I might actually be able to do this. I can fantasize about what I’ll be able to physically do in a year, how much better I’ll be as a mermaid, how much more capable I’ll feel, and how much better I’ll look. Cuz R took the one thing in my body I thought would never change- my hips- and showed me with the right knowledge and skill things can give.
So yeah I’m feeling it now. Real tender, and considering a second bath. But I am pumped. I have another session in two days, and then I’m off for a weekend of mermaid swim workshops before coming back around for sessions next week. I feel so proud of myself and full of hope. Who knows where this fitness journey might take me? I’m determined to make 30 my best year ever.
The Halifax Mermaid
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