I did not grow up in gym culture. I grew up in Lagos where exercise was really about walking from one place to another. Of course, there was inter-house sports day in school but it was sports was a special occassion. Physical Education classes were for learning rules of different games not actually playing games. By the time I left Lagos though, gym culture was slowly infiltrating the mainstream. I remember do crunches on the brown carpet in my mother’s house because I heard that was how people got flat tummy.
When I arrived in the US at 16 and started community college, my step-mother randomly signed me up for a step aerobic class. It was not in my original schedule but she slipped it in there. This was the first time that I was part of a formal “gym” class. That was 13 years ago.
In that time, I have become an active member of gym culture. One of the things that I have had to learn was how to pack a gym bag. Trust me when I say that a well packed gym bag is an essential part of my work-out. When I first started going to the gym, I was very body conscious. I was mystified as to why the towels just seemed so small. Are small towels motivation to get thinner? At first I used to pack my own extra large towel with me to the gym. Now I don’t even bother putting a towel in my bag. No, I have not gotten thinner. I have simply gotten more body confident.
I have gotten really good at packing my gym bag to include the things that are essential to me. Here are a few things that I am currently packing in my gym bag
Body Wash: This is a new product that I have gotten addicted to. I have finicky skin that gets itchy quickly so I have to be careful with my body wash. I have used so many great ones in the past. My current favorite body wash is the Arnica Sports Shower Gel by Weleda. This is a new product that I have gotten addicted to so quickly.
Body Oil: I like oil. Some people find oil too greasy or too shiny to use on their skin. I am the opposite. I find oil to be the best thing for my skin. There are many great lotions on the market and I use them occasionally. When I am treating my skin right though I use coconut oil or an oil blend that I have mixed at home myself. I am currently in love with the Nature’s Way Liquid Coconut Oil. I use that on my face and body at night at home. At the gym I use it on my body only.
Face Wash: When I first moved back to the US in 2013, I did not really have a face care routine. I have become a face care addict in that time and I have tried many great brands. My favorite brand to use on my face hands down is Acure. I love their stuff so much. I use the Acure Facial Cleansing Creme because it is so gentle yet so effective. I can tell the difference in the quality of my skin.
Face Oil: Again, I use Acure brand face oil. I am a big fan of their Argan oil. My favorite from their line though, for winter, is the Seriously Firming Facial Serum. This serum is really just an intense blend of Argan Oil, Borage Oil and Cranberry Oil. I wear it under my make-up as well.
Shower Cap: If you have black natural hair like I do or just a really delicate hair style then you understand this one. I don’t have a fancy shower cap. My sister bought one of those packs with hundreds of flimsy caps last year and I have just been using those.
My Make-Up Bag: I don’t wear make-up everyday. Sometimes I wish I did but I don’t. However, I carry my make-up bag with me everyday in my gym bag because there are some days when I have time and I just really want to doll up my face. I will do another post on my make-up bag sometimes soon.
Anti-perspirant/Deodorant: I use to wear a deodorant for a while simply because it is supposed to be better for the body. However, I found myself really conscious about my body odor. While I recognize the risk in wearing an anti-perspirant,I switched because it made me less self-conscious. I usually wear a gel from Secret.
Of course there are other things that I put in my gym bags depending on the day of the week. However, these are the things that are consistently in my bag. For things that I use out of the gym as well, I tend to buy two. I keep one in my gym bag permanently and I use one at home. It is just easier for me that way because I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.
As I type this I am sitting in my bed while I mentally calculate when to leave my house so that I can get to the gym, workout, get lunch and still get to my dentist appointment on time. This is now my life.
I signed up for a half-marathon. It was a spontaneous decision. Alright, it was not spontaneous like that. It was more like I saw an ad for the AirBnB Brooklyn Half 2016 and I though to myself I should run that. I have become a bit more adventurous as I try go out of my twenties strong. I saw this ad back at the beginning of January. Registration wasn’t for a few weeks so I told myself if I could start training consistently for it, I would sign up.
I have been spending a consistent amount of time in the gym lately. Loads of running and cycling. Recently I have added yoga and strength training to the mix. Running is hard. Some people get on that treadmill and they look like they were born to run. I have had to learn to run.
I have been running for a few years now, off and on. When I was 21, I trained for the San Diego Marathon. I loved every minute of it. The early morning runs. The abdominal work. The discovering weird food like GU. The pasta and broccoli in Marinara sauce with tuna before long runs. The sweaty body. I hated the injury that stopped me from running. I remember that foot injury everyday.
I ran again consistently in Manchester. Then I stopped running until I got to Boston. In between, I did a lot of walking around. I love walking so much. In New York, I used to challenge myself by walking for blocks and blocks. In Ibadan, the teachers taught I was crazy because I would walk from Eleyele to Dugbe often. There is nothing like movement to make me happy.
The funny part about my love of moving is that I have never really considered myself an athlete even though I put in a good amount of time moving. Maybe it is because of my body time. Sometimes when I have a conversation with people about running I feel like I haven’t earned the right to talk simply because my body isn’t skinny. I have put in the miles. But I don’t have the muscles therefore I feel like I can’t be a runner.
Now that I am running consistently again, I am not so worried about titles. Although, I do think I am a runner. I know I am an athlete. I know that because I put in the work everyday. I show up. I push through the discomfort. And I am enjoying this process.
I am enjoying it so much I strategically planned my day to sign up for the Brooklyn Half. The tickets sold out in 52 minutes and I am one of the lucky ones.
And halfway through the challenge, she decided that it was the best time to learn the half-moon. The half-moon is a standing split almost. It requires balancing on one leg and one hand while the other limbs hover in the air. It requires a lot of integrity and focus. It requires self-awareness. It requires confidence. In that moment, when I kept falling out of my posture, I was not sure I had what it took to maintain a half-moon for a full breathe. So I paused the video and went into the child pose.
The child pose has always been one of my favorite poses in yoga. It brings me back to earth. I have started using the child pose a place of meditation when I feel lost during my practice. When I feel like I can’t, I tell myself I can. I am beautiful. I am strong. I can do this. I chant this continuously for what seems like hours within a minute. Sometimes, I feel myself crying. I will myself not to give up on my dreams, not to give-up on my body, not to give up on my soul. In that moment while I go through this self affirmation, I rediscover my commitment to life, to living.
As I write this, I am half-way through a 30 day challenge that I am doing with a yogi callled Adriene on Youtube. (If you are interested in learning about her, click here). One of the things that Adriene says that connects with me is that showing up is often the hardest part of any practice. This has been so true for me in the past 15 days. I have been busy with work and life but I am constantly creating space because it is something I believe in. I believe that is important to create space for myself and meditate through movement. It is one of the reasons why I explore various options for exercising.
Self-affirmation is something that I use in my daily practice. It is what fuels my runs. It is what fuels me when I am lifting. It is what compels me to make the right choices. After going through my chant today half-way through the practice with Adriene, I was able to move and breathe into the half-moon pose. It was not easy but I connected back with my body and I was able to achieve the shapes. It is the victories in moments like this that make me realize that I can. I should. I will…keep chasing impossible.