On Beyonce, Recovery Brownies and #WhyITribe

ITFIt started the way these things always do: my friends were doing it.

Over the two and a half years that I spent in New York, [better known as: the years that shall not be named], several of my North Carolina friends joined a gym calledIron Tribe. Similar to Crossfit, I watched from afar as they grew to love the program with cult-like fervor, attending classes multiple times a week and learning to do things like unassisted pullups and HANDSTAND PUSHUPS.

Sidenote: is there anything on this PLANET that could make you feel more like Beyoncethan doing a handstand pushup? I cannot even PRETEND that my envy over this was in check.

Now, did your Mama ever threaten you with the old, “If everyone else was running around naked and jumping off a bridge, would you do it?” For me, the answer has always been yes. YES I WOULD. Better to wildly careen butt-naked through the air than to sit lonely on the sidelines in your sensible turtleneck and Mom-jeans. So three days after Kellan and I moved back to North Carolina, I found myself sitting in a closet-sized gym office talking to the local manager—a man named Josh with biceps so aggressive they ought to come with German Subtitles. To my great surprise, I found myself beinginterviewed. Josh leaned in earnestly, as though he were about to impart to me the secret of life: Tell me, on a scale from 1-10, 1 being you want to get OUT of shape and 10 being you are ALL in, what’s your motivation to get more physically fit? I cocked my head to the side, and after ten seconds of serious contemplation demurely replied, Mmmm, about a seven or eight?

Friends, I have since learned that the correct answer is always a hard ten. BE YE NOT SO STUPID.

Desperately clinging to his promise that I would NOT be the only person who could not do a handstand push up, I sheepishly joined the month-long introductory class scheduled to begin just days later. As rain poured outside the oversized windows and I valiantly tried not to panic-puke, we stood in a circle introducing ourselves and telling the group why we were there. I listened with saucer-eyes as a Dad talked about wanting to get back in shape so he could keep up with his kids, an already-jacked guy about my age mentioned wanting to improve his triathalon time, and a middle aged woman shared about needing a coping mechanism after a devastating breakup. The tone of the room was somber—these were serious athletes, and it was clear they were all tens. My turn came and I nervously blurted HI MY NAME IS ASHLEY AND I’M JUST HERE BECAUSE I LIKE CUPCAKES AS MORE THAN A FRIEND.

Josh leveraged that precious moment to launch into a lecture about the vast benefits of the paleo lifestyle. I clutched at my neck like Blanche Dubois when he informed us that we would be expected to give up carbohydrates AND sugar AND alcohol [and happiness] for the duration of the class. He actually told me with a straight face that a bowl of fruit could be just as satisfying as molten lava fudge cake and I was all WHAT KIND OF NORTH KOREAN PROPOGANDA IS THIS?!

We learned to do kettle bell swings, dead lifts, push-presses and wall-balls, and I learned that Nutella is NOT paleo just because it has nuts in it. [#paleofaileo.] I left class every day entirely exhausted by my own heroism—prancing to my car as though my meager burpee offerings were proof of my immaculate conception. BEYONCE. I felt like Beyonce.

Several weeks in, one of the coaches explained the importance of eating a “recovery meal” after intense workouts. He recommended his favorite protein shake, a sample of which left me reeling for the nearest trash can. One fateful evening after a particularly grueling encounter with a wall ball, Kellan came home from work to find me plastered onto the carpet, inhaling a brownie with all of the wild-eyed fervor of a raccoon digging through a dumpster. I took one defiant look at him and indignantly spat, I CAN’T DRINK THOSE SHAKES THIS IS MY RECOVERY BROWNIE, and #recoverybrownie was born.

Simply showing up to clumsily muddle my way through each new workout has become one of the most gratifying pieces of my day. There’s a quiet magic in being pushed to do the things you never, ever thought that you could do.  I’m four months in, and while I’m still the tragic girl that can’t do a pullup and have every confidence that I will NEVER be able to do a hand stand pushup…somehow, deep down, I’m still secretly convinced that I’m Beyonce.

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