Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, a couple dozen people gather in a dance studio on campus, chatting on the floor as we stretch and get in a little bit of water before two 1.5-hour sessions of utter back-breaking workouts. This isn’t hot yoga, Pilates, or dance, this is Krav Maga and our arm workouts come from punching someone’s lights out.

No offense to hot yoga, Pilates, and dance, I’ve done all three and they’ve all murdered me in wildly different ways, but Krav is where I feel most at home. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the soreness that comes in the morning after taking a few heavy hits to the shoulders following an intense 20 minute warm up and workout right beforehand.

I love Krav, which is why I decided to grade up. Grading is not for the weak of heart, or stomach. It’s four hours of nonstop skill testing, endurance testing, and of course, determination testing. When practitioners grade for the first level, we do what is possibly one of the most gruelling determination drills out there. Known as 8-count body builders, these exercises are like a push-up, mountain climbers, and burpees had a demon child. In order to pass, we had to do 100 of these things nonstop after 4 hours of testing.

To say the pressure was on would be an understatement.

To make sure I wouldn’t fail, I started working on these push-ups about a month before grading. I started at my base maximum of 20 and built up by 10 every two days until I could do 100 if with a lot of grunting and sweating by the last 10 or so.

It was great, I still had a week before grading and I was in the best shape of my life.

Until my back gave out.

We attribute it to the fact that my core wasn’t strong enough to be tight all throughout the 100, and by about 70, 80, I would be dropping my hips with every push-up, straining my back. With a week before testing, I was in excruciating pain every time I woke up and was forced to put a stop on my push-up preparation.

Devastated. I was devastated. I had worked so hard on my body, keeping it in peak condition by being incredibly careful about what I put in it, worked to be able to reach 100 push-ups without breaking sweat (that’s a lie, I would sweat buckets each time), I thought I was taking care of my body in the best way I knew how.

Luckily, a lot of rest meant that I was able to make it through the four hours of grading as long as I stretched continuously and never stopped moving. By the end, my grading partner slapped me on the shoulder and said “it’s time you give your body a different kind of care”.

I don’t think that, up until that point, I had considered letting my body rest as self-care. As far as I was concerned, bodily self-care was taking ice baths when I was sore, working out every week, and eating all my vegetables and cutting back on the amount of sugar I drank.

I walked out of the hall that day with a new patch to prove my attested skills, but also a better understanding of what self-care is. It’s not always working your body until you’re sore and aching, it’s also listening to your body and letting it heal.

In a month, I’ll begin preparation for my second grading. In a month, I made good to the promise I made to my body that I’ll be a better listener and that when it tells me to stop, I won’t push it beyond what I know it can do. In a month, the push-ups come back, this time with better form.

But for now, I’m seated at a table with what can only be described as junk food laid all in front of me. I’m guilt-free because I know that this is time for me to rest my body, for me to enjoy the holiday ham and Christmas casseroles. There will be a time for me to be smart about my food and work to get the abs I so dearly miss, but this is the time for holiday cheer and way too much beer.

This is self-care. Happy holidays from mine to yours. Eat and be merry.

Story submitted by Rae

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