Lex Enrico Santí, LCSW, MFA
STUTZ: a review and what it means to return to Pallas Fitness
Recently, a documentary on Netflix about mental health has gained a refreshing amount of positive attention. I'd like to add to that positive vibe and give it some additional thoughts as a mental health professional. STUTZ is a movie about a psychotherapist who has worked with the actor Jonah Hill over the span of his illustrious career. You may remember Hill from the Wolf of Wall Street or going way back, Superbad. The documentary is raw, emotional and shows the active process of therapy in making a difference in someone's life. I think everyone should watch it because it not only gives you insight into the relationship that someone can have with a therapist, but for the tools that the therapist Stutz uses during his sessions are instructive and laid out well for anyone to understand. I would say I align myself with Stutz as a therapist who wants, badly wants to make a difference in someone's life.
At the same time that I encountered the movie STUTZ I was contemplating something which had taken me three years to build up to: return to the gym which I had dedicated 6 years of my life to. For those who don't know me well, I am a yoga instructor but also love the sport of CrossFit. I find the balance of these two enterprises, a beautiful yin and yang of how to work with your body. Somewhat perfectly, I found a gym which allowed me to teach yoga during the weekends and be a crazy crossfitter during the week: Pallas Fitness.
Early in the movie, Stutz draws out on a note card, a diagram of how to begin change in your life. He says, the relationship with the BODY is 85% of the fight that we have in our lives. To regulate our emotions and to begin a relationship with ourselves. He then says, People, whom we have cut ourselves from because of the condition we are suffering from, are the next pillar.
Finally, to complete the pyramid, he says "you" the relationship you have with your mind is the last piece. Of course, I intuitively knew all this, but seeing this all drawn out on the screen was very jarring for me. It was the final kicker for me that made me know, it was time to return to the gym and to focus on working with my body.
In the time since the pandemic began, I had gone away from my fitness community at Pallas Fitness. A long time advocate of the benefits of CrossFit, with the shutdown in place in March of 2020, I did not see how I could come back to the community. I wanted to do so, but life began to get in the way. Becoming a parent, changing jobs, launching my private practice, and moving three times; it was unlikely that I would have been able to keep up with my fitness regime, even if there was no pandemic. I knew it was time to go back when I saw this movie.
CrossFit, as a sport, is a very "yang" activity. The sport is aggressive. Loud. The individual confronts a workout alone, yet, doing a set of movements which are to be emulated and using weights which are to be lifted, in a short period of time in a group class. You are in competition with others in a room, doing a sort of silent mental battle against everyone else. For those of you that are unfamiliar with a typical workout: you maybe do 30 air-squats with 20 burpees and then10 pull-ups and try to get as many rounds as possible in an allotted period of time. The adrenaline and energy that goes into the workout, shocks you out of your normal "ho-hum" life structure and spits you out on the other end. Combined with yoga, I have found the balance between these two extremes to be a practice which I revel in.
I love CrossFit for a variety of reasons. The community being at the top of the list, the people that it draws together are an eclectic bunch which love being with other people. However, if I'm being honest, the environment provides me the opportunity for a mindfulness exercise which represents my deepest fear: I want to understand how I am enough in front of others. Leaving CrossFit and the community meant that I would be unable to confront this fear regularly. Every workout presents such an opportunity and the dynamism of being connected with others who are encouraging, yet face their own inner-demons, is a riveting environment to be in. The reason I prefer CrossFit, to say, working out at home or in any old gym is the "stage" atmosphere about it and how you are seen and yet working with yourself during every moment.
I had threatened to return many times, but I think I only got to a point in my life recently when there was a window of opportunity to make the time to return. More so, I knew I needed to make this change so that I could integrate my life more fully and understand my body in a different way. Before Covid, I think, for many of us, there was an inattentiveness for many parts of our lives, which the stay-at-home and do-some-introspection provided a necessary reconfiguring of our lives. That was necessary and one has to admit, here to stay, I hope. I believe though, that the pandemic forced us all to lose something--and that is the second pillar of Stutz's pyramid, a relationship with others. The feeling of being with others, to see others, be they strangers or friends, and have them witness parts of your lives unfolding is certainly a loss, which I am trying to understand. It has become far too easy to cut someone off and retreat into my own world. In CrossFit, you just are constantly facing other people. Coaches, fellow athletes, but most of all, you are facing yourself and what you are capable of doing.
On December 17th, 2022, I returned to the gym and found myself connecting with old friends once again. For 6 years, I had been coming 241 Cherry Street and walking into Pallas Fitness and doing workouts and it is such a beautiful part of my life. If you are reading this and you have forgotten your gym, your dojo, your ballet studio, your yoga studio--I encourage you to reach back out, to take the steps to make time for it. When I came back a wave of memories flooded me, that made me remember how very much I loved that part of my life. I can honestly say it was one of the best things that I've done for myself in the past 3 years. When come back to a place, all you want to do is to know the door is open for you to walk back in.
We have lost so much in the pandemic. Some of us have lost friends and family and relationships have changed beyond repair. I get that. We have lost so much in these last 3 years. Don't let your fear, and your fear alone about your life continue to rob you of your community.