Body Back Begins Again... Or Sometimes You Get Smashed in the Face

February 28, 2018Jess Westhoff

I’m what’s known in the Fit4Mom community as a “Body Back Lifer.” Every time it works for my family’s schedule, I sign up for another eight week session. Despite having a terrible name (sorry, Fit4Mom), Body Back offers moms the space and support to focus on improving their physical, mental, and spiritual health. I’ve written about a few of my earlier journeys here and here, but this session has special significance for me as I’m three months out from my surgeries and so ready to regain my strength. And I won’t pretend I don’t feel like I have something to prove (mostly to myself).

The first week gave me reason to be optimistic. I was drinking tons of water, eating fruits and vegetables, exercising every day, spending quality time with family and friends, and reading several great books. But then life suddenly got super busy. I found myself driving to Thursday’s workout feeling frazzled. I had a 6am flight the next morning and a handful of tasks to complete before getting to bed for a short night’s sleep. Several years ago I would have skipped the workout, hoping to make it up in the hotel’s fitness center, but I have learned that 1) make up workouts rarely happen and 2) I would be invigorated by an hour of exercise and conversation with friends.

Thursday nights start with individual check-ins, and I was excited to chat with Abby about my successes from the first week and how I would keep the momentum going. I had concerns about how to stay on track while traveling, and Abby suggested focusing on what I could control and making the best choices possible. Keeping my water bottle on hand, packing Kind Bars so I didn’t have to rely on airport food, and committing to going to the hotel gym at least once were a few that we came up. They all seemed realistic, and I could feel some of my stress evaporate.

After everyone had a chance to check in, Abby led us through a warmup and then we began the workout. We were each doing a different exercise and would rotate to the next one after a minute. I began by sitting on a large ball and rowing with a resistance band. I quickly fell into an almost meditative state, losing myself in the repetitive motion. The minute passed quickly and I moved to the next exercise. I was supposed to take a heavy medicine ball and throw it to the ground before retrieving it and repeating the process. It was the perfect exercise to let out some more stress. I slammed the ball down hard and it immediately bounced up, smashing me in the face. A metallic taste filled my mouth as I stood there in shock.

I eventually realized that the ball must have cut my lip open. I cupped my hand over my mouth and ran to the bathroom. Blood gushed from my lip as I stood over the sink. Tears streamed down my cheeks. It really hurt! I wet a few paper towels and held them to my lip until the bleeding had mostly stopped. Any hopes I had about continuing the workout were dashed when I saw the looks on my friends’ faces as I emerged from the bathroom. I was going to need stitches.

There are a few different ways I could tell the story of cutting my lip, with my favorite emphasizing the force with which I threw down the medicine ball. But the truest is probably mostly about how I was anxious and distracted. It turns out that a medicine ball doesn’t care about early morning flights, meetings, or even piles of laundry.

Now, a couple of weeks later, my lip has mostly healed. There is a little bump, but the large gash has completely closed. And maybe this is the other lesson for me: healing happens fast. Well, when you let it. You just have to blot up the blood, turn to friends for support, get some stitches, and live with an ugly lip for a few days.

I’ve healed well in some areas of my life and not so well in others. There have been times when I’ve tried pushing away pain with new shoes or chocolate cake or a Netflix binge. What I am starting to understand, though, is that when you decide to heal, when you choose to get the stitches and religiously apply the triple antibiotic, the pain goes away. The body and the heart are resilient. And thank goodness for that because sometimes you get smashed in the face.