I initially joined the gym for the same reason that everyone else does. It was January, I’d consumed my bodyweight in Ferrero Rocher and I thought it might be a good antidote (or so I’d been told) to the post-Christmas blues I was experiencing.
Then, I found out my grandmother was dying. Terminal oesophagus cancer with a few months to live. I found out this news on my way to a Legs, Bums and Tums class, only my second or third since joining. I’m sure most people who’ve received news like this can attest to the fact that it doesn’t seem real. I felt numb, but I went to my class anyway.
Don’t underestimate the intensity of a Legs, Bums and Tums class. Not the one I attend anyway. It’s hard work and as the teacher shouted instructions I told myself that I absolutely had to push myself as hard as I could. I was pushing myself to my limit, fighting against my own mentality to give up and trying to work through my feelings at the same time. There’s no option to break down and cry when you’re in a class with 12 other people.
As I squatted over and over again, I winced in pain and memories flashed in front of my eyes. Every emotion I was feeling – frustration, sadness, confusion, loss – ran through me as I threw a right hook, then a left, as hard as I could. The booming music didn’t take my mind off the situation or distract my thoughts – in fact, it helped me to sort them. I’ve felt differently in each class I’ve attended since and those 45 minutes have been the perfect opportunity to find some clarity.
It’s no surprise that exercise is advised as one of the ways to deal with grief, not least because of the endorphins it releases. There are no right ways of dealing with the damning news of terminal cancer but for me, intense exercise – something I normally hate and have never done much of in my life – has been a solace. Death and grief is confusing and there are no answers. Talking about it can help, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Pushing myself until I’m physically exhausted hasn’t fixed anything, but it’s allowed me a slice of time to wear my emotions down so that they take up a little less headspace than before.