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movement and empowerment

March 5, 2009

I’ve been strength training at BodyTribe Fitness for over a year now, and like any regular physical activity, it has changed my life.  Chip Conrad, the owner, has created a space without the usual commercial gym focus on aesthetics. The entrance is surrounded by plants, two cats live in residence, and the gym is the gathering place for a progressive tribe of people who are focused on physical empowerment as a spiritual experience. Training here focuses on compound movements in which you move a lot of weight…the only way to buld true strength.

I started max lift training this week, which is where you train to lift as much weight as you can, all at once, rather than doing several sets and reps of a lower weight. I discovered I can deadlift more than my bodyweight, without any previous max lift training. This feel amazing, especially after completing my first unassisted pull-up a couple of weeks ago!

Chip says that max lift training is training your central nervous system to fire all out, all at once. If we don’t challenge our bodies to do this, there’s no reason for the central nervous system to ever build these types of connections.

“You’re training your fight response,” he said.

Yes! This is exactly where I am, and exactly what I need.  My default response is to freeze, to dissociate and separate from my body, which was an incredibly adaptive and creative response when I was growing up, but as an adult it severely limits my life.

When we train our bodies to do anything that’s outside of our usual range of comfort, we create abilities within ourselves that apply to all areas of our lives.

I began training at BodyTribe last January, after a devastating year in which I lost my job, ended a prolonged abusive relationship, and was acquaintance-raped. Twice. I was pathologically dissociated and completely shut down. I had no access to my body…and everything we do in life requires us to be in our bodies, since they are the vehicle for our spirit to interact in this world.  I started training with the intent to experience my body, to build connections.

My entire life experience was one of a dissociative wall, like a thick glass plate separating my heart from my throat and cutting off all access to awareness of my body below.  Regular strength training in this safe, nurturing and empowering environment, along with the deep therapy work I’ve been doing, has dissolved this wall. I felt it move down in my body, giving me access to sensing my torso, then my hips, then my thighs and legs.  I deeply believe this has played a major part in changing the course of my life.

What a different experience of working out! I used to run regularly, but out of a sense of hating my body and the twenty pounds I gained my first semester of college.  Now I am in deep relationship with my body, and the aesthetic changes have been secondary.

After school today, I’m going to find my max squat. It’s exciting to see what I can do, and to know it’s just the starting point!

Be sure to check out Chip’s amazing book, Lift with Your Head, his blog Physical SubCulture, and his DVD which will be coming out later this month. If you’re in the Sacramento area, check out the Winter Strength Camp coming up March 14-15. It’s a crash course on what we do here.  If you’re not in Sacramento, ask him about e-training!

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One comment

  1. Congratulations!! I’m glad you found BodyTribe. They sound like such a great, positive place to be. I know I always feel better about myself and my body when I have the soreness that comes from a really great workout. I think it will definitely be a good way for you to take your body back.



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