Discover more from XO, MU by Melissa Urban
Pulling for you
The gym practice that keeps me grateful and lifts you up (and yes, it really works)
This edition is sponsored by WHOOP, who is with me through every workout, every hike, and every difficult season, helping me keep my cup full
Every week, I strap a heavy belt around my waist, attach it to a sled (a metal platform designed to hold weights), load it up with hundreds of pounds, and drag it up and down the gym turf. Dragging heavy weights forwards and backwards is fantastic for your lungs and heart; builds leg, glute, hip, and core strength; and (backwards especially) keeps your knees healthy. It’s one of the ways I keep my lungs in shape for hiking at elevation, and it’s one of the only forms of “cardio” I do in the gym.
When I first started dragging the sled, I would jokingly compare the weight I had on it to a famous person, like an actor or musician. When I had 225 on the sled, I’d say I pulled Vin Diesel. On a light day, I’d drag Kelly Clarkson. (I’d estimate.) It was a fun way to describe the weight I was using when I shared my workout on Instagram.
One day, I dragged what was basically my body weight on the scale, and instead of finding a similarly-sized famous person, I decided I was pulling myself. But what started off as a cheeky comment on Instagram unlocked a thought process that led to one of my most beloved and intentional practices—one that I still continue today, many years later.
Pulling for you
The day I decided I was pulling “myself” on the sled, I spent a few story slides talking about how we’re so eager to show up for other people, but somehow feel selfish or undeserving if we try to show up for ourselves. We’ll give others encouragement and support, show them grace and compassion, and extend them every courtesy—but when it comes to showing ourselves support, grace, and courtesy, we often just can’t. But we should, because we deserve it, and are just as worthy of that kind of love.
Deciding that I was pulling for myself in my workout felt like a radical act of self-care. I was lifting myself up. I was acknowledging myself. And I was doing so unabashedly, without apology or self-deprecation. I deserved this shout-out just as much as anybody else.
Pretty deep for a normal Tuesday morning workout—but it unlocked something in me. The next few workouts, I pulled for myself, no matter how much was on the sled. I pulled myself through the sticky spot on the turf, I pulled myself even when it felt too heavy to move, I pulled myself for one extra round, just because I could.
Then one morning, I realized I didn’t need to pull for myself. My cup felt full, but I had 185 pounds on the sled, and was ready to start my workout. So I took a moment and visualized the woman in my DMs who told me she was having a really hard go. She was a single parent without much help, and told me she was struggling with her mental health. The day we had talked, I told her, “Sending you energy for healing and rest.”
So I thought, “Today I will pull for her—and everyone who is experiencing the challenges she is facing.” That intention saw me through an hour of heavy sled drags, and when I shared about pulling for the struggling single moms in my stories, I received an outpouring of responses. It had truly connected with people—they had felt it, as I had felt it on the turf. In an instant, I realized that sending healing, loving, intentional energy to strangers on the internet was not only easy—it was effective. It meant something, to them and to me, and I realized there was real power in what happened on the gym floor that morning.
The motivation to keep pulling
We just wrapped another group Whole30, and for the second time, we asked participants to track their Whole30 NSVs using their WHOOP band. The results were nothing short of astounding.
Average recovery scores increased by 14%, despite an average strain increase of 1.6. That means people were more active all month long, but recovering much better.
Average HRV, a measure of nervous system balance, increased by an astonishing 18.3%. That’s like getting one extra day a week with a calm and prepared nervous system.
Average resting heart rate, a measure of cardiovascular fitness, decreased by 7%. That’s a good thing! It means even with that extra activity, their hearts were working more efficiently.
You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from WHOOP. In fact, most of our Whole30 x WHOOP participants aren’t! They’re people just like you, using the data to help them manage stress, identify the habits that promote or detract from their health, and stay motivated to continue those habits.
WHOOP helps you keep showing up for you. Join WHOOP today and see how the data can motivate you to keep on pulling. Sign up now and get a free month of WHOOP, plus a new WHOOP 4.0 with a Black Onyx band.
Set the intention
I’ve seen professional athletes dedicate a game to a parent who has passed, and there are CrossFit workouts (like “Murph”) named for fallen soldiers. But it had never occurred to me that a normal person doing a normal workout could set the same intention for someone else—never mind a total stranger who is very much alive.
Once I started, though, I immediately saw the practice’s real and tangible benefits, not just for the person or persons I choose to lift up on that day, but for myself. Setting the intention immediately puts me into a state of gratitude. If I’m sending healing energy to someone else, that means I have some to spare, which immediately makes me give thanks for that (and organically, the other good things in my life). It also helps me feel more connected to something bigger than myself—the current that flows through all of us—from God, the universe, Mother Nature, or whatever force you believe, from the spiritual to the physical.
Pulling for others also gives me the grit and energy to finish my workout strong, allowing me (where appropriate) to dig deep and pull one more round or add 20 more pounds, sitting in that discomfort in a way that builds tolerance and resilience. The practical aspect is that my workouts are better when I keep others in mind, which isn’t the point, but is certainly a bonus.
How it looks today
While I could set a similar intention during any workout—a hike, a ruck, or a weightlifting session—I’ve chosen to do so only with sled pulls. That just feels right to me; weightlifting sessions feel too technical and require too many calculations, hikes are always just for me and God, and my rucks tend to be more social in nature, where I’m out with my dog or family. Sled drags are perfect—it’s just me and the sled for an hour, the movement is the same pattern over and over, and the idea that I’m physically pulling for someone solidifies the intention.
My practice has expanded such that I sometimes pull for specific people by request, like the woman who sent me a note asking me to keep her Dad in mind after a difficult health diagnosis. Sometimes the universe sends me a group to pull for, like the people in my DMs right now grieving over the loss of innocent lives. Occasionally, I’ll pull for a group of people going through something I’m facing, like a tough mental health period or a painful friendship break-up—and I’ll add myself to that group. And some days, I still just pull for myself, because I deserve that same energy, love, and intention.
And if you ever see me pulling one day and think, “I wish she had pulled for me,” I want you to know that I did, because it absolutely works like that. The energy I am able to send is unlimited, my intentions encompass anyone who needs the boost and connection, and the Universe always knows exactly what we need, whether it’s in my consciousness or not. I believe that with my whole heart, and you can too.