Dear Bootcamp instructor,
I was never a fan of group exercise. I was happy running when I wanted, for how long I wanted. But as pregnancy shaped my body and complications with my baby arose, I found I couldn’t run for both physical and emotional reasons. With a broken elliptical at home and no gym membership, I was uncentered and anxious without my exercise routine. I finally caved in to a friend’s entreaties to join her at “bootcamp.” My first class, I arrived early and sat in a near panic attack as all the women in the 6pm class performed different exercises in near seamless coordination. Everyone looked so good! I was overwhelmed. Then the warm up nearly did me in. I left feeling on the fence about whether this bootcamp was for me. I tried again at an early morning Wednesday class and left still feeling undecided. I had an ultrasound later that day with my doctor (a fellow bootcamp-er) and I remember telling her I was like 50/50 on whether I liked it or not. I gave it one last shot on a Friday morning class that you were teaching. When I left, I began thinking, I could like this. In the car on the way to dinner later that night I was telling my husband about my day and told him about the good class I went to with the friendly instructor. And then there you were at the restaurant- smiling and remembering my name! Like I told you the other day, that’s what sold me.
Over the next three weeks, the exercise saved my sanity. I learned to love jam ball slams for the anger I could release about my baby’s health. When I was admitted to the hospital, the doctors (my colleagues) all had a good laugh at rounds about how their admission for the day (me) would be late because she wanted to go to bootcamp.
I tried to continue the pace in the hospital, taking time each day to do a mini-bootcamp while tethered to the fetal monitor. You’d be surprised what one can do in a small hospital room attached to a six-foot wire. My husband even got me a medicine ball for my birthday, which I celebrated in the hospital. I yearned to do some jam ball slams, but my midwife and doctor (also fellow bootcamp-ers) didn’t think it would be a good experience for the patient in the room below me. My doctor thought I was a great research project in itself, showing that a baby with no fluid did just fine through vigorous exercise. How cool it was to watch her heart rate never falter while I did ball taps and squats. Your class was even on my mind in labor as I told my midwife between contractions, “this is harder than bootcamp!”
My midwife let me return to bootcamp at 2 ½ weeks postpartum, under her supervision. My daughter was buried, my family had all left and my husband was back at work- I was alone and terrified of my grief. In the initial days, I wouldn’t get out of bed, barely eating. Going to bootcamp gave me a reason to get out of bed, brush my hair and eat breakfast.
Upon returning to my first class, I sat in the car crying until the last possible moment. I was scared of the memories- being somewhere that I only knew in pregnancy, seeing people who might ask about my baby, unaware that she had died in my arms. I made it in that day, as you know, and many days that followed. That first day wasn’t the only day that saw tears. The nice thing about bootcamp is I can’t make it through a class without a red face dripping with sweat- a nice camoflauge for the emotion that would spill out without warning.
Bootcamp allowed me to step out of myself for a bit. I took a momentary vacation from my sadness everytime I thought “only ten more seconds of climbers,” and sometimes I dove deeper into my grief, using my anger to push me further.
As you may have noticed, I come pretty much exclusively to your classes. I found myself going almost exclusively to your classes, looking forward to the bubbliness and kindness you showed. You didn’t treat me weird- you didn’t ignore the fact that I was back, no longer pregnant but childless, nor did you treat me like I had some sort of leprosy. I was comfortable. I was coming to your mid-morning classes (one that I dubbed the “mommy class” because of all the kid chatter that happens before warm up) and I could come alone- without the crutch of my friends from the earlier classes- because I knew you. You knew my name from day one.
I often think that the person you see at bootcamp is not the “real” me, though I’m not so sure anymore. There I know I am quiet and keep to myself. Other bootcamp-ers might even find me unfriendly, as I learn how to smile and make small talk again. I might not show how much I enjoy being there and how much my body and mind need to be there. This new timidity and shyness is a function of the “after.” In my other life, the one “before” I carried a baby I knew might die, “before” I had to take my daughter off life support, “before” my world came to a halt, I was outgoing and friendly and would have told you all this in person. I suppose that is why I am writing this. All the times I have referred to “bootcamp” in writing this, I‘ve really been thinking of YOUR bootcamp. I feel like I’m in AA, going back, making amends, thanking all those who have helped me on my journey. I was procrastinating writing this because my journey is far from over, but a friend encouraged me to do it.
So in case I haven’t been vary clear… Thank you. Thank you for your cheer, your motivation, for knowing my name, learning my story and welcoming me. Thank you for giving me a temporary reprieve from and insight into my sorrow at the same time. Thank you for making your class a warm place, full of exertion and encouragement. You’ve helped me enormously. You are an excellent trainer and wonderful person.