How Fitness Transformed My Life
WRITTEN BY Jessica Danger3 months ago
In the last two weeks, I’ve tried my hand at two new sports. Last week I surfed in Laguna Beach, CA and this week I jumped in a pool in Irvine, CA with Deep End Fitness, part of the training regimen for Underwater Torpedo League. And then I somehow got roped into a Triathlon in La Jolla, CA in December. Throughout, I maintained my regular training program.
Having the ability to participate in these sports is one thing. Having built the engine to do all of them is great. But, having the confidence to do them is another thing entirely.
When I first found fitness, I was overweight, depressed, and felt powerless in my own life. I was unhappy, and in hindsight, was struggling with maintaining even a modicum of self worth.
Now, staring into my forties, and with years in the health and fitness industry, this is the same story I hear from more women than not. I spent two years writing about it for Morning Chalk Up. It fired me up when I first learned it, and it fires me up just as much now.
Deep End Fitness is “personalized, immersive aquatic programs, tools, and events that promote individual confidence and optimal performance for all ages.” Started by Don Tran and Prime Hall, two former Military Special Operations Marines that also started the Underwater Torpedo League. It’s exactly the type of thing that our namesake Glen “BUB” Doherty would have roped all his friends into trying with him. “Come on,” I can imagine him saying. “It’ll be fun.”
So on a Wednesday afternoon a few weeks ago, my friend Amanda Hardeman and I joined Deep End Fitness at their training pool in Irvine, Ca. (I just want to pause here, for a moment, to remind everyone that Amanda is also the same friend that joined me for BUBS sponsored ice baths in February. She is GOOOOOOD to me.)
The first task that our instructor, Manny, at Deep End Fitness assigned to us, after we warmed up with breathing exercises and burpees, was to tread water for ten minutes. This already seemed impossible. It had been a few years since I’ve been in the pool, aside from playing with my children, so diving in gracefully felt problematic enough, let alone keeping my head afloat for the length of some AMRAP workouts. While we treaded water, Manny explained to us one of the core principles of Deep End Fitness: F.R.E.E.
F.R.E.E. stands for Focus, Relaxation, Economy of Motion, and Efficient Breathing. In the pool, when all of these are in tune and put to use, you can enter into a flow state. That flow state, Deep End Fitness believes, can help you achieve a happier, fulfilled life. It’s one of my favorite principles, that fitness is a microcosm for life.
But before you can sort your life out, you have to first tread water for ten minutes. Once you’ve done that, you move on to bobs, which sound adorable but are actually insane. Bobs require you to inhale at the top, drive your body down to the bottom of the 12 foot pool with a maximum of one stroke, push back up from the floor, quickly breathe again at the top, and submerge yourself again. You do this five times on your first day.
You’re not actually swimming here. What you’re doing is training yourself to remain calm while controlling your breathing and discovering your body’s natural state of buoyancy.
Post bobs and breath catching, came the largest challenge of the day. Amanda and I had to swim the entire 25 meter lane and back, holding a ten-pound brick in one hand.
Yes. You read that. A ten-pound brick.
To be honest, I didn’t even even think I would be able to do the ten minute tread. And here we are now, with a ten pound brick and the length of a dang pool to swim with it.
But here’s the thing: We forking did it. We propelled our bodies across the pool, holding a ten pound brick, and then we returned with the brick. At the end of it, Amanda looked at me and giggled, her eyes lit up even through her swim goggles. At the end of the session, all the athletes and instructors circle up and share their experience and what they learned in that session. Most of them listed a trait, or a quality, not a skill. It's a beautiful shared experience.
In the car home, Amanda and I were sharing our own experiences, what was tougher than we expected and what was more fun than we expected. And I told her that the hardest thing for me was just trying it.
“Really?” she said.
“Yeah, totally. Five years, ten years ago it never would have even occurred to me to try something like that. So for me, any time I try a new sport, I've already won. Just having the confidence to try it, knowing now that my body is strong and confident and that my mindset can match it, is a gold medal day. That’s the growth right there.” And we may or may not have discussed a triathlon in December.
After we dried off and ate like champs, we headed back to the gym. She led a new member through an onramp class while I did my weightlifting program on the platforms. I watched as Amanda coached her through learning an overhead squat. She nailed it, and so Amanda kept going, slowly increasing her weight each time. Watching them train together, it occurred to me that our new client, a young Marine, had no idea all the lessons she was learning aside from the overhead squat, and all the lessons that Amanda was learning by coaching her, and all the lessons I was learning by observing.
At the end of her session, I walked straight up to her. I extended my hand and said, “Hi. I’m Jessica Danger and we’re so glad you're here.”