Growing up in Turkey, I was used to running around all the time. Our days in elementary school were long because we had recess between every single class. So I would spend half the day in the schoolyard in my dress uniform, running around behind a soccer ball, heckling most of the boys in my class. Fun fact: My biggest expense as a kid was tights because of how many I tore through running around during recess.
When we moved to the U.S., I spent my weekends playing soccer, baseball, and tennis with my cousins. In middle school, I hated running in track & field but in high school, I tried out for the volleyball team every year. I was never the most athletic kid but damn if I didn’t try so hard to be part of a team. I loved playing volleyball but just could not get over my own insecurity issues to ever make the cut. Of course, this being high school, I threw myself into kickboxing in gym class and threw food right out the window. My body images issues have been around for as long as I can remember and I’ve already written about that.
When I finally moved out of my parents’ house and in with a house full of roommates when I was 24-years-old, I threw myself back into working out. I would come home from happy hour to do the 30 Day Shred in my tiny room as my roommates slept.
I was feeling strong and about to dive into P90X when I got in my first major car accident. My car was totaled, the whiplash was awful, and I never got treated for the injuries. My shoulder spasm issues were already under way when this happened so I just gave up. I slowly started to gain weight and stopped taking care of my body.
I never really found a way to make peace with my body to the point of trying to become active again. My ex was a runner, so when we first started dating, he pushed me to go jogging with him once. It did not go well. The first time we went hiking was encouraging but then we took on a more challenging mountain and well, we made it to the top but I didn’t feel like my best self.
That was the last time.
Fast forward to January 2018. One of my best friends had started to do barre and she gifted me a 5-class pass. “You can go at your own pace,” she told me. The first class was absolute torture but something in me finally clicked. We started our Saturday mornings sweating at barre class and little by little, it became sort of easier.
Then I got into another car accident. This one was brutal. Thankfully, I had health insurance so I finally went to see a chiropractor. The first thing he said to me was that I had a “10 year old car accident on my spine.”
Needless to say, the adjustments were NOT easy. I went back to barre class about a month later and it was so fucking painful but I didn’t back down.
Yet, there was still something missing. Barre was great but I knew I needed to also get back into cardio work. I didn’t want to go to the gym, and I didn’t want a personal trainer. The last time I had done a spin class was a disaster. A few of my friends had seen success at Orangetheory Fitness. They encouraged me to try a class but I was terrified.
“I’ll go when I’m a little stronger,” I kept telling myself. I kept delaying, and delaying, and delaying…until I finally made the commitment. I texted my friends.
“I’M GOING TO MY FIRST ORANGETHEORY CLASS NEXT WEDNESDAY.”
On November 7, 2018, I walked into my first OTF class. Everyone was super nice, and my coach showed me the ropes. They told me I didn’t have to run and I could do the tread blocks as a power walker.
The biggest selling point of OTF for me was that it’s a guided workout, but everyone goes at their own pace. You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself. Except my first class was a partner workout. They begin every first-timer on the rower, so the person who was at the same number station on the treadmill was my partner. As the rower, I was the one keeping pace for our switches.
Y’all. It was the most intimidating situation and I was worried about holding my partner back. I was in pain. I was out of breath. I was cramping up. I wanted to drop the handles and run out—and never look back.
Except I didn’t. I have no idea how but I pushed through the class.
Then I signed up for another one.
My next class was a different format and a little “easier” in the sense that it was not a partner workout and I was able to get in the groove a little more comfortably. It was also a different coach, so I got a more well-rounded perspective about OTF in general.
And I kept coming back. I went from going 2X/week to 4-5X/week depending on how I’m feeling.
Here’s what I’ve accomplished in the 5 months since that first class:
- 2,000 meter row benchmark. Twice. Beating my own personal record the second time
- My first DriTri
- Numerous personal records when it comes to the weight floor
- My first 90 minute class
I stopped caring about the scale. When I began going to OTF, the number on the scale was the highest it’s ever been my entire life, but I made a choice not to focus on that number. I am focusing on how I feel, how my clothes fit me, and the fact that I keep showing the fuck up.
So, what is it about Orangetheory that helped me find my groove?
- For those 60 minutes, it is only about that workout. Whatever’s going on in my life and the world that day, I leave it at the door as soon as I step into that studio. My phone is left behind.
- The coaches are fantastic. They’re hands off because they have an entire class to pay attention to but they don’t let me slack either. They encourage me to keep pushing, just a tiny bit every time.
- I don’t have to worry about making any decisions except for which station I will begin on, and how will I push myself for the next 60 minutes. I have decision fatigue during my everyday life, so not having to think about which workout I should be doing, or how long I should be on the rower, or which core exercise I should be doing…it is a literal sigh of relief.
- If I don’t give my all in one class because I’m having an off day, it’s completely fine. That is ONE class. I still showed up. I still did the work, and I will be right back in the studio the next day.
- I have never felt stronger. I am still not a runner but that’s OK. The tread and rower workouts are fine but when a coach comments on my form on the weight floor, that means the world to me.
- My left shoulder is still incredibly weak and I still suffer from muscle spasms. Yet, every time I go into class feeling “off” and planning on hitting the lighter weights on the floor, my body surprises me.
Orangetheory taught me that after decades of feeling at odds with my body, it is possible to make peace.
It’s possible to slowly gain confidence and strength.
It’s possible to listen to my body, understand its limits, and then push past that comfort zone.
I can’t wait to see what I can do next.
If you want to follow along with my OTF journey, I post all of my updates over at @BerrakLava on Instagram.