I myself love these memes and quotes, inspirations. Sometimes they resonate as I nod a hearty “hell yeah” and lace up my shoes. I’ll flex my work-in-progress arms after seeing a particularly inspiring image of a ripped goddess. “Someday,” I’ll think as I go to meet my trainer. Other days, I’ll just kind of scroll along, patting these chicks on their proverbial taut backs and go out for a sore walk or drop into a tired pigeon pose. I don’t begrudge these fitness platitudes because they represent huge strides in celebrating women’s physical greatness and inspiring girls to be strong. Nike started it all with “Just Do It,” and we’ve been doing it ever since.
I love the cult of Bad-Assedness. Women are due their moment in the Bad Ass Workout Sun, since for half of my life men kind of led the way in athletics and public worship of the strong human form. I get a kick out of experiencing the cultural shift and tilt in women now taking the athletic spotlight. We are using our competitive spirits and determination, grit and stamina to better our bodies and feel great about physical, mental and psychological accomplishments. In the best cases, we clap for our fellow she-ras and celebrate successes of the mom next door; on our worst days (ladies, you know you’ve had them), we get mean-girl jealous and feel some player-hater competitiveness rise to the surface.
In my fledgling experience as a part-time athlete, I’ve had moments of Bad-Assedness. When I almost broke under my 2 hour goal in a half marathon; when I completed 60 Days of Insanity and saw 16% body fat for the first (alas, short-lived and fickle) time; when, after working at it for months with my former (but always badass) trainer Troy, I did a perfect kettle bell snatch with the next highest weight. When I taught myself how to do laps after injury sidelined me from running for a whole year. When I held a side crow in yoga, switched back to bakasana, and then to the other side without pausing to realign or take a break. All badass moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
But this week, I’m revisiting my relationship with the whole BadAss concept. What if being BadAss means something different than how I’ve been envisioning it in its sweaty, almost-vomiting glory?
Since starting nutrition school, my eyes have opened up to how smart our bodies are. How, if we practice stillness, we learn to listen to the body. In listening to it, we hear what it needs. In hearing what it needs, we then feed it and nurture it and allow it to heal itself. Allow it, in a sense, to become BadAss.
Remember the saying about never regretting a workout? Well, injury will make you question the wisdom of that saying. Becoming BadAss for me happened through injury - when my body forced me to stop by screaming at me through acute pain. Being injured taught me a lot on every level, forcing me to reexamine my relationship with strength and the drive to succeed. Because accomplishing BadAssedness in the tradition sense can be powerful. The high of completing a training goal, crossing a finish line, holding a pose you couldn’t do a month before, lifting a heavier weight : there’s nothing like that feeling. Once you start crossing off goals, you almost become addicted. Strong, capable, determined, exhilarated. BadAss.
Today I present a new kind of BadAss, one that’s not as sexy or showy. It’s quieter, harder to achieve, and more challenging than logging in thirty miles a week, setting your alarm for 530 to stumble to vinyasa, driving to your trainer even when your overly-worked body and common sense screams to turn around - but you go anyway.
This new BadAss level requires patience and humility. Saying “no” and listening to that other smarter, quieter voice for a change. I started this week feeling that familiar high of achievement: running the same 8k trail race that derailed me two years ago. With two of my BadAss friends by my side, I crossed that finish line smiling, immediately setting my sights on the next one, when I could do it all over again.
As the week went on though, my emotions shifted. It was a tough week and I found myself questioning myself on every level. I cried a lot, woke up down and out. I felt a bit sore from my race so had mentally allocated two days to rest before exercising again. Tuesday night I went to a yin/mediation workshop, the third in a four part series. I didn’t want to go, but I signed up for it already and knew I would feel amazing and expansive afterwards. My thoughts and emotions were all over the place though, so I knew that it would be hard to still my mind as well my sore muscles and tight tendons from Sunday’s race.
But you know what? I sat in meditation for 40 minutes, the longest I ever had. Me, with my scoliosis, overly busy brain, and tender ankles from running in my rusty trail shoes up and down rocky terrain. I reached a level of stillness that I wouldn’t have thought possible a month ago, coming out of it with a newfound peace and sense of quiet wonder. My mind hummed , my equilibrium restored, my body happy with me for giving it what it needed. I felt content, light, and free.
And, dare I admit it, slightly BadAss?
I still felt exhausted on Wednesday, going through the motions of Fun Fall Break Mom with my kids. “I just need more coffee. I have to work out. I’ll make power yoga tonight,” I told myself, driving the kids to Chuck E Cheese of all places. Waiting in the waiting room at Liam’s speech therapist’s session, later that afternoon, I rested my suddenly heavy head against the wall and fell asleep. ‘Mom,’ Audrey prodded. ‘Are you napping so you can be ready for the gym?’
‘Yes, honey,' sitting up, shaking my head to wake up. 'We’re going. I need to go.’ I always feel better after yoga, the inner BadAss reasoned, that familiar Just Do It mantra rising to the surface. ‘I just need to rest up for a few minutes.’
But I couldn’t get it together. Finally, five minutes before Liam’s session ended, I had an epiphany. I didn’t have to go. Who said I had to work out, had to honor the “two days of rest” directive I gave myself Sunday night?
‘You know what, honey? We’re going home. I am going to take a nap. I just can’t do it today.’
Audrey nodded wisely, and said (a BadAss in the making), ‘That’s smart, mom. You need to rest when you're tired.’
And that’s exactly what I did. I dragged my sore, sad, exhausted ass into the house, up the stairs, making a beeline for the covers of my cool bed. I slept for an hour and a half, woke up feeling peaceful and refocused. I did put in an Ab home workout as dinner cooked (this new BadAss me is a work in progress, after all), but I ate smart and let myself sleep well that night.
Workouts hold a huge place in my life. Hiking, lifting, running, yoga, cardio, swimming: I love it all. But some weeks, maybe it’s time to listen and put energy into a different kind of workout. I rode bikes with the kids, did 10 minutes on the elliptical tonight before going to yin yoga. I allowed myself a moment of “I’ll do more cardio after yin. Or I’ll do a few rounds of pushups when I get home,” somehow justifying the quiet pace of my gym time. But, I’ve done yin late at night enough to know - enough to hold dear the value of quiet spirit/mind yoga connection - that no way would I be doing any workout after quieting my mind and listening to my breath for an hour.
So, the “Just Do It” BadAss girl can just hang out for a while, cheering on the Quiet, Body Listening BadAss as she takes center stage for a few days. Allowing that side to flourish when it needs to takes, for me, a certain amount of fortitude and courage. Me five years ago was too enamored with Just Do It Girl to ever miss a workout. I learned the hard way how dumb that can be. But I understand and respect that drive, and can’t ever see myself losing it.
I can interchange my BadAss selves in my quest to become the best version of myself possible. Meditating 20 minutes a day takes just as much stamina (or more) as powering through a cardio interval circuit or doing one more set when you feel like you can’t. The feeling you get after meditating, taking a slow walk, attending yin, however, can sometimes surpass that very powerful feeling of physical and mental satisfaction. In embracing and empowering the quiet moments, you go deeper in your other workouts to become more complete.
And this, for me, is the ultimate definition of BadAss: combining that feeling of balance within your body and spirit to take on whatever the world throws at you. And doing it with a peaceful smile, liking yourself, loving others, pushing yourself, but not judging yourself. Or anyone else, for that matter, as you walk through the gym in flip flops after shavasana, with a little quiet smile, past all the She Ras dropping weights like bosses and working through the pain.
All while rocking the hell out of that Athleta outfit.