My New Normal / by Mandy Wintink

My body is the heaviest it’s ever been, with the exception of being pregnant, and sadly I can’t say it’s because I’m loaded up with strong muscles. Nope. It’s fat, due partially to the fact that I devote much less time to working out than I used to before and WHILE I was pregnant and I’m hoping that it’s also partially due to me still breastfeeding. Breastfeeding does help a lot of women lose weight after birth. It definitely helped me. In fact, I was thinner at 8 months postpartum than I am now, again, partially due to the fact that I was still in pretty good shape from pregnancy. But… I have read (with hope) that an extra 10 lbs could stick around while nursing. 

I struggled (emotionally and physically) this spring to fit back into the clothes that I wore last summer. I’m talking last summer when I had a 2 year old, not when I was pregnant. Not only do my last year’s clothes not fit, the workouts that I did do are qualitatively (and qualitatively quite different). For one, I dye of thirst, which is not something I have ever really experienced. Even while playing ultimate in 37 degree Celsius weather I would have to force myself to drink because my body never seemed to alert me of the need. And every step of a run seems hard right now, much harder than I remember. Sure, my willpower is shot due to having a 3 year old consume it all but it feels more than that. My pace is ridiculously slow compared to my personal worst, never mind compared to my personal best! And I had very little motivation to go do much of anything. 

My ego has been very upset by this and I even went to talk about it with my naturopathic doctor, worrying that something was physically wrong with me, health wise. My thyroid I thought? Nope. We ended up discussing new ways to work out and… the dreaded topic of “you’re in your 40s now”. "NO!!" I said out loud. "Don’t go there!!!”  

And we talked about my new normal. 

I walked away from that conversation with some really good tips (see below) for working out, which I have subsequently implemented with success, with success defined as actually enjoying my workouts again. I also walked away with CoQ10 (a coenzyme) to help with the free radicals that were ramping up in my ageing body. Urgh. But I also also walked away with a bitterness about the topic of “my new normal”. It just didn’t sit well with me.

Then yesterday, the idea of a new normal came up again when referring to someone dealing with symptoms of a concussion. That phrase — the new normal — was thrown out casually by someone but it lingered with a similar bitter taste in me. 

The more I thought about the new normal, the more I didn’t like it. I don’t like the idea that we would spend lots of energy trying to accept this new normal, because that is what is implied by the phrase. I have done that this spring and it didn’t work. Frankly, I think it does very little good except to teach us how to grasp onto a new false permanence. If I accept this “new normal” then what I am doing is working really hard to come to accept that THIS now is me and then I inevitably start to believe that this new me (or my new normal) is how it WILL be going forward, as if this new normal is permanent. For me, that means that I will work hard to accept that my 5K run is 28 minutes instead of 21:50 min and that my body weighs 140 instead of 125 or that I am a size 10 instead of an 8 or a 30 instead of a 26.  I will work really hard to accept that this is me and unconsciously assume this will stay the same… and then possibly by the time I reach that acceptance, I might be a size 12... Or I might not even be able to run. Or I might pick up biking instead where I have no comparison. 

My point is that learning to accept a new normal falsely leads us to believe that this new normal is static. But it’s not. We and our bodies are changing all the time. So there is no new normal. There is no normal. There just is a moment in time when we are something that is different from other moments and sometimes the same. 

All of my yoga and meditation training did not teach me to accept a new normal. They both teach me to observe the ever changing nature of ourselves. So instead of reaching for a new normal, my efforts would be better spent observing the beauty of nature recapitulated in my own very biology as it waxes and wanes and lives and dies and flourishes and withers moment by moment.

Because there is no normal so there can never be a new normal. 

My body is different than yesterday, than last year, and than 10 years ago. Some parts of it feels stronger. Some weaker. Some more lively, some dying. Practicing to observe this so that instead of accepting a new normal, I learn to accept whatever is present in any given moment will serve me much better than anything else I could do. 


*This is what I did for my new/old workout:

The tips I got was to do high intensity interval training (HIIT), which is what I used to do and love to do but I never knew it had a name! I do 1 minute of high intensity something, which could include sprints about 10 feet apart alternating with side steps, karaoke, and some cutting to cones and back... basically shuttle running.  I also do some squat jumps and variation of lunge jumps in 1 minute intervals and also some core strengthening stuff. Basically everything is 1 minute intervals with about 15 second rest in between. I do this for about 30 - 45 min and then finish with some yoga. I like this because every workout is different. I don't plan. I just show up somewhere with cones (or use pieces of garbage I find) and start doing something. I can easily think of stuff on the fly, so it also keeps my mind occupied with a task rather than thinking about how much I hate something. And pretty much anything can be done for 1 min much easier than say a 30 min run!