Fathom Mag
Article

Body Breaking

Why do you push yourself so hard?

Published on:
May 20, 2019
Read time:
4 min.
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This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The words are familiar—spectacularly so. These are the words Jesus spoke over the bread before he gave it to his disciples. We eat this bread, and when we do, we remember him. We remember who he is, we remember what he has done, and we remember what he continues to do on behalf of us, for us, and in us. 

We are a remembered people, it makes us who we are. Though sometimes I’d like to forget. 

We are a remembered people, it makes us who we are. Though sometimes I’d like to forget.

“Do you need another spot?” Jesse asks.

My training regimen has me lifting heavier weights than ever before. It’s challenging, to say the least. Jesse and I are both regulars—we started hitting the gym seriously about the same time. I see him a few days a week, on and off. We’ve watched each other learn exercises and techniques; we’ve watched each other get fitter and stronger. 

“Yeah, actually,” I say. I could use the spot on bench press. It’s my hardest major lift, and I hate getting stuck—it’s embarrassing, especially as one of the few female lifters in the gym. There’s something about someone watching you that makes you push yourself just a little bit more than you might be able to otherwise. I want that extra nudge over the edge, so I welcome his offer. You’d think I have something to prove. I probably do.

Jesse helps with the lift-off, counts my reps, verbalizes corrections to my form, and encourages me when things get difficult. He helps re-rack the bar when I finish. I stand up from the bench, and we high-five. He says, “Nice job,” and I pull one earbud out of my ear so I can hear him better. 

“Why do you push yourself so hard?” he asks.

I’m not expecting the question, and I balk at it.

There’s a lot of obvious reasons for why: working out is good for you, consistency is a good thing, it’s healthy. But most women don’t choose to lift weights. Our side of the gender coin leans toward cardio and group yoga. But I don’t do cardio, and I fall over in yoga classes. I am trying hard to get stronger. I choose the non-traditional path for women at the gym: I lift heavy shit. 

But I don’t say any of that. 

“I’m here to forget.”

“To forget,” I say. I kind of blurt it out. It startles even me. But the second the words leave my lips, I know they are the right ones. “I’m here to forget.” 

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

So much of my life and my time is spent remembering. As a homeschool mom and classical educator, I spend so much effort helping my children and my students sit still, pay attention, memorize, remember, and attend. We memorize scripture and poetry and hymns and passages and definitions and forms—everything from how to decline a Latin noun to lines from Shakespeare to how to solve a multi-step equation. I write things down so that I can return to them over and over and read them again and again and remember them and make them a part of me. 

As a wife and mother, there’s much to remember: appointments and meetings and schedules and classes and practices and rehearsals and events and dinners and to-dos. Lots of juggling takes place to make it all happen. 

And mostly? I’m a sinner. My sin is always before me, taking up headspace and heartspace, reminding me of how unworthy, unworthy, unworthy I am. I am a wretch, a heathen, and more. I would call myself names that friends have forbidden me to use against myself if given my way. I am the worst of sinners. This is not something I want to remember. There are many things I would like to forget.

Jesus broke the bread, and his body was broken for us so we could remember him, and he could remember us. I work out to take my body to the breaking point—all so I can forget. 

When I’m at the gym, I can do nothing but focus on the weight I’m pulling. I lift heavy enough that I can’t focus on anything else, or I will injure myself. The only thing I can think about is my form: my muscles and my breathing and the tension between all of those things. I think about whether I’m bracing properly and gripping properly. Nothing else can matter, for that matter. I need to pay attention to in order to not throw my back out or crack a few ribs or crush my toes. 

Jesus broke the bread, and his body was broken for us so we could remember him, and he could remember us.

There is just me, my body, the music between my ears, and the iron in front of me. That is all. All the worries, all the fears, all the sadness, all the sin—it all disappears. Nothing has any hold on me. It’s wonderful. 

When we eat the bread, and we drink the cup, we experience a grace—a grace of remembering and being remembered. Perhaps grace comes in multiple forms. Perhaps grace isn’t only what I think it is. In fact, I’m sure of that. It’s always bigger than what we think. 

What I have found in pushing my body as far as I can is that there is grace in forgetting too. For about an hour three times a week, the east is as far from the west as it can be, the seas rage, and I can blissfully forget everything about who I am. It is through unmaking that I am made. It is through forgetting that I remember.

Kristen Rudd
Kristen Rudd lives in Cary, NC and is a homeschool mom by day. By night, she’s exhausted. She has written for Center for Lit, Torrey Gazette, Circe Institute, Fathom Magazine, and for herself. You can find out more about Kristen and her shenanigans at kristenrudd.com.

Cover photo by Victor Freitas.

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