After a traumatizing episode left me physically and mentally stuck, I had to learn to unleash resilience I didn’t even know I had. Here’s how I discovered the power of determination and the human spirit to change my life, and how you can do the same.

Original Publication: Strong Fitness
Written by Raquel Renda, Fitness & Wellness Expert, Mind and Muscle Advocate Dedicated to Helping Women Unleash Their Strength and Embrace Their Potential
Photography by Paul Buceta
Hair & Makeup by Monica Kalra

Everyone at some point or another encounters challenges, setbacks, and times of feeling “frozen” throughout their lives, with experiences ranging from minor inconveniences to significant obstacles. No one can live a life free from that, but believe it or not, those challenges represent some of the beauty on our journey. 

Discovering the power and determination of the human spirit and how that can change your life is how I ultimately made my way to feeling free after a physically debilitating episode. The experience was so impactful I felt compelled to share my learnings in every way I can to teach others how to become free themselves. Because, let’s be honest, when you’re in the thick of it, you can’t see the beauty.

To become free is knowing that despite the discomfort and difficulty that challenges bring, they are essential to become better. Challenges are opportunities for growth, self-discovery, and healing. Embracing the process, rather than fixating on individual moments, allows us to connect with our inner selves, delving deeper into our souls. We possess the strength and resilience to overcome adversity, to pick ourselves up, take a deep breath (sometimes many deep breaths), and continue on the path to “thriving”. Connecting your mind and body to work through challenges, injury, or trauma together will allow for greater, deeper, and accelerated results.

It is quite a journey and all great journeys produce lessons for success, so here’s what my experience feeling paralyzed for months gifted me with knowing.

Lesson 1
MOVEMENT AND CONSISTENCY

It’s crucial for us to take a good look in the mirror and honestly evaluate our current position in life, acknowledging both our strengths and where we need to put in the work. Once we make our assessment, every action, decision, and choice we make should bring us closer to our goals, dreams, and plans for the future. Keeping this alignment not only instills hope and drive within us, but also provides the will to keep moving forward even in the face of difficult challenges. If our actions fail to propel us closer to our desired outcomes, it’s essential to be open to changing direction. 

Just as our minds need direction forward, our bodies require movement to prevent stagnation, and heal. My mantra is, “Exercise is Life.” Exercise is not just beneficial; it is essential to our well-being. Regardless of our fitness level, or stage of injury or trauma recovery, resistance training plays a crucial role in healing. The human body is amazing—our bodies thrive on challenge. We need to “use it or lose it,” and we often underestimate our own strength. Whether we’re lifting 5 pounds or 50, it’s essential to push ourselves and complete our exercises. Progress may come in various forms, such as achieving consistency, adding new exercises to our routine, or increasing the resistance. Any one of these results are moving you in a positive direction. The key is to stay determined and consistent, keeping our minds aligned with our fitness goals and guiding us towards constructive progress.

Lesson 2  
TELL YOUR MIND AND BODY “NO!” AND CHANGE YOUR THOUGHT PATTERN

Working through my trauma, the realization of my physical limitations inundated my mind with thoughts: the fear of not being able to participate in joyful experiences with my children, rediscover love, or engage in cherished friendships and activities. In response, I made a conscious decision to change my thought patterns. I declared, “No!” to the negative narrative that threatened to hold me back. Rewiring your thought patterns is imperative for progress. Instead of fixating on the “why” or “I can’t”, redirect your focus towards a strong desire for growth and healing.

Telling your body “no” is another crucial aspect of overcoming fear and doubt. When increasing the intensity of your fitness routine or attempting more challenging exercises, it’s common for fear and doubt to surface. However, taking small steps and pushing through these doubts can lead to significant progress. I recall standing beneath the pull-up bar, feeling skeptical when my physical therapist encouraged me to jump. Despite my doubts, I gave it a try. Though initially, my body remained grounded, over time, I was able to make progress when I got out of my head. Eventually, I could jump and grab the bar, dispelling the fear of not being able to move that once plagued me. Now, after a year of consistent effort, I can perform multiple pull-ups without hesitation—thanks to the power of determination and perseverance, and overcoming fear.

Telling your body “no” is another crucial aspect of overcoming fear and doubt. When increasing the intensity of your fitness routine or attempting more challenging exercises, it’s common for fear and doubt to surface. However, taking small steps and pushing through these doubts can lead to significant progress. I recall standing beneath the pull-up bar, feeling skeptical when my physical therapist encouraged me to jump. Despite my doubts, I gave it a try. Though initially, my body remained grounded, over time, I was able to make progress when I got out of my head. Eventually, I could jump and grab the bar, dispelling the fear of not being able to move that once plagued me. Now, after a year of consistent effort, I can perform multiple pull-ups without hesitation—thanks to the power of determination and perseverance, and overcoming fear.

“The sight of my children witnessing my pain weighed heavily upon me. I was determined not to burden them, or feel like a disappointment. I always saw myself as their rock.”

Lesson 3
PUSH THROUGH MENTAL AND PHYSICAL PAIN AND FIND YOUR FUEL

The sight of my children witnessing my pain weighed heavily upon me. I was determined not to burden them, or feel like a disappointment. I always saw myself as their rock—a source of unwavering strength and support. It was in this role that I discovered my unyielding resolve. Fueled by the love for my two boys, I found both mental and physical resilience. I knew I had to endure the excruciating pain and learn to move again for their sake. Even the seemingly mundane task of driving them to school became a monumental feat, as I aimed to instil in them a sense of reassurance amidst uncertainty. Over time, as I trained my body to move through the pain, I noticed a gradual improvement. My movements became less rigid, less dominated by a fight-or-flight response, and eventually more fluid. Take a moment and ask yourself; What is your fuel? What motivates you to move mountains? 

When you strengthen your body and push it to its limits, you may find that weight training can serve as a powerful outlet for releasing emotions, negative thoughts, and trauma. This is good. This is a healthy release. Stress and emotions need to be released; you do not want to keep it inside. By pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone during training, you allow your body to adapt to stressors and challenges. This adaptation process not only leads to physical strength gains but also fosters mental resilience and emotional well-being.

I look forward to continuing to connect through this column, The Comeback, to help you discover, or rediscover, your power within.