Bikini Body or Bust: Week 4
I'm lying in bed in pain, feeling miserable, frustrated and seriously hacked off. It's the end of the boot camp programme and I'm not even there. The Bikini Fit girls have come together for one last session, celebrating all they've achieved over the last month - and the only reason I know about it is because of the irritatingly fun photos and statuses they've posted online. Why can't that be me, I whine?
The answer: I broke myself a little bit. I started feeling fleeting twinges in my lower back at the start of the week and ignored them, blithely assuming they would soon disappear. But by midweek I'm in agony, unable to sit at my desk at work or walk or bend over without sharp bursts of intense pain. I head to a physiotherapist who diagnoses me with a strained disc - an unusual injury for someone fairly fit and not overweight, she says.
The Bikini Fit coaches are stumped, telling me that in years of running the programme, no one has ever injured their back as I have. And I can't recall a particular move or exercise that caused me any pain, especially under the watchful eyes of the trainers checking and correcting my form and posture. So what happened?
Watch: Sofia's week 4 Bikini Fit testimony
My physio says she believes the pain is a cumulative effect from months of workouts where I've pushed myself too hard, combined with a desk job that has kept my back muscles weak. Before starting Bikini Fit I would work out up to six days a week at the gym using machines and weights, with no supervision other than iPhone apps telling me I was "doing great!" And after losing about 12 pounds (5.4kg) in six months, I wasn't exactly going to argue with them, right?
But it looks like my gung-ho, "no pain no gain, bro!" attitude has backfired. As I feebly type this with one finger on my iPad I am lying in the foetal position with a pack of frozen peas pressed to my back, while strapped into a highly unattractive back brace that seems to have doubled up as a corset - the silver lining being that I quickly get too full before I can get too immersed in self-pitying chocolate binges. Yay.
In the same week, my friend and willowy yoga devotee Tiffany warily accepts my invite to a "bring a friend" session at boot camp and finds herself run completely ragged, almost to the point of wanting to vomit at the end of the session (a feeling, it must be noted, shared by most Bikini Fit veterans). Although she is pretty fit, she ruefully says she could "see the pity in the trainers' eyes" and decides boot camp workouts are perhaps not her style.
Tiffany also expresses concerns at some of the heavy weights and kettlebells used in the session - how does Bikini Fit prevent injury to their students, she wonders?
"Safety is a concern before intensity," says Bikini Fit founder Alex de Fina. "We completely understand people's concerns of injury, and hopefully we have proven throughout the programme that while sessions may progressively get more intense, it's very carefully programmed and progressed so that our rate of injury would be significantly below industry average."
While I seem to have learnt a lesson in listening to my body and not overdoing it, I am possibly not accepting it as graciously as I could. I rage around my flat (ok, the sofa), housebound after my physio tells me to stop doing any activity whatsoever after a week of no improvement in pain. I jealously scour my Facebook feed for news of the Bikini Fit girls meeting for extra workouts, and throw out my scales in a fury (or rather, order my husband to do it when I can't pick them up) when they insolently tell me my weight has gone up. I'm fuming over having to literally lie still, not able to go to work or meet up with friends or, obviously, exercise, and pretty soon my husband suddenly has more social engagements in the evenings, mercifully avoiding my angry rants.
What's harder than keeping the momentum of a workout routine going, I worry, is picking yourself up again after a break - whether it's from illness, holiday, injury or just throwing your hands up and quitting when the scales refuse to budge. I've been in all of those scenarios and getting going again is incredibly disheartening when you're unhappy with your body, can't run as fast or lift as heavy as you used to, and can't help but think: "What's the point?"
But after years of avoiding gyms and going on fad diets, I've learnt that the road to health, fitness and a body you can be proud of is not an easy one. We're constantly besieged by stories of celebrities snapping back into shape within weeks of giving birth, or promoting quick-fix juice fasts and diet pills that promise to let you shed pounds in days. And it can be depressing as hell when you realise that these aren't options that offer sustainable health benefits as well as aesthetic ones.
So the only choice I can make is to not give up. When my injury heals and I'm (literally) back on my feet again, I want to press on with the healthy lifestyle I've discovered and finish what I started, however long that takes.
And yeah, those Instagram #fitness selfies will happen too. Vanity isn't the worst sin, right?