Tattoo Part Two

Since leaving Hawaii, I knew that I wanted to help people. To help people do what I did, and I’m not just talking about losing weight. Fitness is the vehicle, but more than that, I wanted to help people discover their own strength. To help moms see that being a martyr and giving without ceasing helps no one in the long run. That it’s more than okay to take care of yourself – in fact it’s necessary. That it’s healthy to show our kids what self care looks like in action. They learn more from what we do and how we treat ourselves than just lip service. As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words.

But wanting to become a trainer and help people and actually doing it are very different things. I even blogged about having a big dream, but was too afraid to specifically articulate it publicly at that point. Dreams are scary. What if I fail? What if I am no good?

What kept nagging at the back of my mind was, “But oh my, what if you succeed?!”

Up until last year, getting certified and becoming a personal trainer was something I would do “someday”. Maybe next year. Maybe when the deployment is over. When “life isn’t so busy”. (As if it’s ever NOT busy!?) Someday. Truth? The truth is I was scared. Petrified. What if I don’t pass the certification test? What if I suck as a personal trainer? What if I can’t find a job? And the “What ifs…” go on and on.

I made a decision at the beginning of the year to make this one a year of action. I was going to stop talking about doing stuff someday, and just go do it already. Enough procrastination. Sink or swim, this dream of mine wasn’t going to go anywhere so I better lace up and start chasing it. Even if I was afraid.

I got my first tattoo a few years ago. Personally, it’s not an impulsive thing to decide to get a tattoo. I like having significance or a story behind it, or to bookmark an event or chapter in life. This year of action has been an important next chapter. This year has been one of, as Theodore Roosevelt called it and Brene Brown discussed further; “getting into the arena”:

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It’s also been a year of being afraid, nervous, but moving forward regardless. It’s been one of turning fear into fierce.

In addition to the theme of “Action Despite Fear”, there were a couple of other components that made this tattoo selection seem almost a forgone conclusion:

As a Christian, I love C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. It is a beautiful allegory of faith, grace, unconditional love, touching on themes of courage and fear and what that looks like in life. I also love the film adaptations and am thrilled that my kiddos love it as much as I do.

My Hair. Through school I was called names and made fun of because of these crazy tresses, this wild unruly mane that I have only truly embraced over the last decade or so. (Thank goodness for great hair products!)

Astrological Sign. I’m not a huge proponent of astrology, but it does pique my curiosity as some of the general descriptions are pretty close. Mine happens to be Leo.

After considering all of these things and thinking about it for a few months, this is what I came up with:

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The butterfly represented the change. The lion represents living out those changes, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s scary. I can say I chased my dream. I get to get up and do something I am unabashedly passionate about.

Fear into fierce.

Have a tattoo? What’s the story behind your ink?

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The Mental Weight Room

A while ago we were prompted to discuss confidence and describe the things at which we excel. It was a hard post to write in that describing fears and humility can sometimes come off as false, or at worst fishing for compliments. Barf. That’s so not my intention.  I do wonder, though – do we ever totally have confidence? Do we ever arrive? Do we ever just get it? “I’ve got this and life is splendid!” My theory is probably not. There’s always something more to do, more ways to stretch ourselves, and areas where we feel inadequate.

My most recent experience in having courage to take scary steps to confidence is at the gym. Oh the gym! It’s such a weird and wonderful place! There are so many great things about the gym, things that make me angry, and many things that make me stifle laughter. (And yes, I still LOVE my online workout program DB4L!) In every gym I’ve been in, there are different sections that have a sort of unspoken rule about where you go and where you don’t. In my gym (and, honestly, in my head more than reality) these sections are as follows:

The Zumba/Step/Group Cardio Room

Always blasting awesome, thumping music, the Zumba folk go straight from the front desk and/or the childcare drop off area and head right for their class. No stops, no eye contact – straight in. Dance and step cardio only people!

The Cycle Room

25 stationary bicycles, music, speakers and sweat. Duh. My home away from home. *Sigh* I love this place!

The Women’s Only Workout Room

A bank of elliptical machines and treadmills line the wall, with the resistance training machines along the opposite wall with mirrors. There is one squat rack, some dumbbells, stability balls, etc. Most of the machines are older models, refurbished or are missing parts. Why do the women get the crap machines? There are plenty of tools to get the job done, but it leaves a bit to be desired. But what do we care, we’re just reading our magazine on the elliptical anyway. (Yeah, that was sarcasm.)

The Dark Cardio Room

Introvert central! My other happy place. Dark lighting, rows of state of the art treadmills and elliptical machines and you don’t have to interact with anyone! YAY! This room says, “Leave me alone. Let me do my thing. In and out and get it done.” No mirrors in this room so no having to watch people posing for selfies!

The Weight Room

Dominated by males mostly. Lots of ear buds, workout drinks, free weights, not-so-subtle selfies, weight plates clacking and crashing together, and grunting. Occasional swearing. Lots of “Hey bro” kind of talk. People checking out other people. (I live in a college/military town – it’s gonna happen.)  It makes me laugh. But it intimidates me, too.

Every week I eye that free weight area. I salivate over the opportunity to have the courage to walk over there like I own the place and do my thing. Instead, into the women’s only gym I go and do my workout in there. WHY?!

Despite losing 50 pounds (and relapsing and re-losing!), logging countless miles, doing crazy workouts, traveling and paying to do insane mud runs, completing a marathon, and no matter how many fitness certifications earned, I still have trouble believing in my capabilities.  In my head, I’m still the overweight mom that is tired by walking up stairs, that fears she won’t be able to keep up with her kids. I don’t look like a fitness model so I don’t belong in that weight room. I’m the one who wants to be a trainer, but I know I don’t ‘look’ like a trainer. Will anyone even take me seriously?

It’s another one of those let’s stick our foot in the face of fear and just do this already moments.

After arguing with myself, I took a deep breath, went in with workout in hand and did my deal. While outwardly, it was highly anticlimactic, but in my mind? Yeah, in-the-air-heel clicks and fist pumps all dang day! I mentally high-fived myself all over the place! I did deadlifts, back rows, climbed on the assisted pull up machine (unassisted pull ups are on my bucket list!) triceps, planks, hip thrusts – I did everything I had planned and then some! I OWNED that weight room.

I. did. it.

Yeah, the ‘bros’ were in abundance in all their selfie-taking, grunting glory. Smiling, I looked myself in the eye. None of my mental b.s. matters. It’s time to end the struggle in the mental weight room and get out and play in the real one.

I’m gaining strength. Results are coming. I’m seeing muscle mass increases. I’m learning. I’m teaching. I have a voice in this field and I have every right to stand in my own confidence and own this. 

On Confidence

In the latest WordPress prompt, they ask us if we are good at what we do, and what would we like to be better at. I find it coincidental* that this subject pops up right when I’ve been discussing the subject of fear and confidence with a few different friends lately. Usually when things like this pop up in various areas, it’s time to write about it!

*Note: I do not believe in coincidences in general. Most of the time, I think circumstances can come together to either push us into where we need to be going, or pull us out of where we have no business being!

Confidence. Ugh. Even the word tends to illicit the response of “fake it ’till you make it!” As I have been reflecting on my last experiences in teaching fitness classes, I definitely lacked confidence. I was trying to fake it, but I was intimidated. Intimidated by the instructor I was taking over for, as well as the experienced gym members who let me know they had “been through a few instructors and weeded out the ones they didn’t like”. Yeah. Awesome. While that class wasn’t necessarily what anyone would call successful, there were lessons o’plenty! Even hard, gut-wrenching experiences shape us for other opportunities down the road, despite our inability to foresee them. (My current gig has been the exact opposite, wonderfully!)

When we are young, everyone asks us “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Who the heck knows? When you have no life experience – how are you supposed to know what you’d like to do or try? I think better questions would be:

“What lights your fire?”
“What do you think you are good at?”
“What can you contribute to your community?”

When I was 5 I wanted to be a performer. An actress, a dancer, a singer – give me a stage! Unfortunately, anyone who has heard me knows I am unable to carry a tune. Growing older, other talents and passions came and went. As a teenager and young adult, the common thread in every job/career I have worked is teaching. I am a teacher by nature. My mother is a teacher by nature. As parents, we are teachers. I love it. I loved that lightbulb moment when while peer-tutoring math in high school, the student lit up when she finally grasped that algebra concept. Easing a new hire into the ropes of her new job – when it was plain she was nervous, then years later offers thanks for making her look up answers herself, so she now knows how to manage and lead her own staff. It’s magic when that happens. Helping other people learn to help themselves. Enter the vehicle of fitness and getting my own health on track – and voila!

Discussing the possibility of running a marathon, a friend recently expressed the desire, but lacks the guarantee of possibility. I know she can. I have no doubt. But, like many of us before any new distance or challenge, we doubt ourselves. We get in our heads about whether it’s possible, instead of making plans to succeed. Why do we do that? We ALL do it. The thought of running another one scares me, too. What if I do worse? Or don’t finish? What if….what if….what if…..?

But what if you kill it?! Wouldn’t it be better to try and stumble, then to always wonder what if? Who might you inspire in the process?

While I would like to say that confidence has come with the knowledge of knowing my skill set, and just like that – life is suddenly perfect. it’s just not the case. It doesn’t work that way. I was TERRIFIED of leading my own bootcamp. Would I be any good? Would anyone show up? Would they do the work? Some dear friends who were more than supportive of my efforts and gave me a little confidence to try. And a little more confidence came. Some set backs, some getting in my own way, distractions, and life. Two steps forward, 1 step back, but persisting anyway. What I’ve found through the process is 2 things:

1.) Confidence comes only when I take a scary first step.

2.) Slow and steady wins the race. I may not have hit all the goals in the time frames I wanted to, but it is coming together, just as it should. Sometimes patience really is a virtue, dang it!

2015 in our world is the year of scary. Scary, exhilarating, confidence-enducing – ACTION. Instead of saying, “I’m planning on…” or “I’m going to….” or “Someday….” It’s now.

Right now.

What scares you, but secretly excites you?!

Go do it!

(Even if you’re terrified!)

Getting Back in the Saddle

Do you ever have one of those moments?

Those situations that seem somehow orchestrated? That you are simply being carried along by the situation? I’ve had a few of those, adopting our dogs definitely had that “preordained” vibe. Today was much the same.

Last week, no one showed up to teach spin class. I am certified, and I had the job application from the gym in my car all week. I even whipped up a playlist, you know, just in case. I knew in the back of my mind, I would probably not need it, but had it on the back burner. I’ve been listening to music and unconsciously determining if it would be a good sprint, jump or a recovery song. My wheels have been, ahem, spinning.

The thing is, the last time I tried this – it lasted 6 weeks and the class got cancelled. It was a huge blow to my confidence, so much so that I’ve only recently wrote about it. Should I be doing this? What if I suck? What if it happens again? What if….what if….what if…. There are also the minions to consider. They will be out of school during the summer. How will logistics work, etc. Not a deal breaker of course, but definitely some planning would be necessary.

Basically – this is all my mental bullshit. It’s real, but the bottom line? The bottom line is I’m afraid. Afraid of not doing well, not having anyone who wants to come to class and essentially getting kicked in the gut again. Rejection is HARD for everyone. I take it REALLY, REALLY hard. Having “kids/hubby’s schedules” to consider is a convenient out. I kept telling myself, perhaps in the fall. I’ll practice all summer and then be ready to really hit the ground running. (Procrastinating is another one of my favorite defense mechanisms against doing things that scare me.)

Heading off to spin this this morning, I was really hoping there would be a good instructor. I just needed to get in a good workout. I did a fantastic DB4L leg and shoulder workout before class time so I was already kicking a great endorphin high! 10 minutes after the class was supposed to start, there was still no instructor.

My stomach doing flip flops, I spoke up. “I have a spin playlist ready to go, if everyone is game…” My friend piped up, “She’s certified!!!” No one objected so I plugged in my phone, said a little prayer and got back in the saddle. After the first track, I looked around and people were grinning! (And killing it!) YAY!!

Half way through, a gym employee walked in. I hopped off the bike, expecting to be chastised and asked to leave since I am not an employee, the gym could be sued, etc. He put his hands up and said, “Not interrupting, continue!” A few moments later, the other spin instructor (whom I love!) popped in and slapped down an application. “Fill this out when you are done! We NEED someone for Saturdays!”

Class over, participants sweaty and happy, I walked down to fill out the paperwork and possibly talk to someone about getting hired. The gentleman that had walked through class earlier sat down and coincidentally happened to be the manager of the personal trainers. (Gulp.) He then introduced me to the other hiring manager and the 3 of us had a wonderful conversation about goals, what I wanted to do, a brief history, etc. and set up an interview for Monday. While freaking out that someone was going to boot me out because I jumped up and led a class, these guys thought it was fantastic! YAHOO! My feet never felt the pavement as I glided into the parking lot.

I did not know how bad I needed this confidence boost. I was shaking and in tears as I got into my car. Even if I don’t get hired, while it would be sad, I shoved my foot in fear’s face today and got up there and did it. My good friend, and fellow spin instructor, always says, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Bring on the uncomfortable – because it’s time!

Snapshot Story

Snapshot Story
Arrival in Hawaii, 2009

In this daily post prompt, we are asked to grab a photo album and write a story about the first picture we see of ourselves. In my photo album on my computer, this is the first photo I saw.

Taken on the balcony of the Hale Koa hotel in Honolulu, we were so excited to be stationed in Hawaii! We couldn’t wait to explore paradise. With our then-5 month old baby boy, I had no idea what three years on an island in the pacific would mean for my family, my marriage, or for me.

I remember thinking at the time, “Hmm, I’ve lost a bit of weight, I’m on the right diet.” Now when I look at this picture, I see a bad hair ‘do (Christmas Tree cut, anyone?!), a tired mom, anticipation of opportunities, and more.

What I want to do is take this girl by the shoulders and shake her. I want her to discover how good it feels to eat healthfully and MOVE! I want her to not shy away from the camera. I want to tell her to stop wearing black in 80 degree heat!

I want her to start writing and never stop.

I want to tell her it’s okay to say goodbye.

I want to tell her to be open to new things, to be open to new people.

To try new things, even if failure is a possibility. Don’t always take the safe road.

That when she feels scared, it’s okay to sit in the fear, feel it for what it is, but then never to let it immobilize her.

There are many things I want to tell her. But she’ll soon discover it all for herself.

“All great achievements require time.” -Maya Angelou

“Real” Friends

Not only was the subject of friendship a WordPress Daily Prompt today, but it’s something that I’ve been mulling over the past few weeks. Last weekend I had the pleasure of running a 5-miler with a dear friend who I haven’t seen outside of cyberspace in 6 months – entirely too long! Catching up with her was such a gift and 5 miles never flew by so fast! We chatted about all things parenting and motherhood; how the house is never as clean as we’d like, the differences between racing pre-kids and post-kids, lack of time, how it takes longer than one might expect to find your ‘new normal’ as a mother, breastfeeding woes, and how everyone else seems to be doing it better. I mentioned that if someone cares more about how your place looks when they come to visit, perhaps they should be shown the door.  She looked at me as we were running and said, “Thank you for being a REAL friend. I don’t have to pretend with you.”

That sentiment was probably one of the most touching compliments I have ever received in my life.

Honestly, I just don’t have time to be anything but real. What you see is what you get. Most days, I don’t wear make up. I love yoga pants and workout clothes. I love to laugh, really laugh – guffaw and bend over and let ‘er rip!  When I cry – it’s usually of the full-on ugly, soul cleansing variety. My hair is in a pony/bun conglomeration more often than not. I love all things touchy-feely, emotional, self-improvement, empowering and fist-pumping. The real stuff of life.

I have been blessed by wonderful friendships, mostly due to our military life. The friends you make while moving every few years aren’t like any other friendships. No one in your life, try as they might, can truly understand it’s like, what is required, and what kind of support is needed, than a fellow milspouse.

It’s hard, to be sure. If you’re leaving in two to three years, why be real? Why let your guard down? Why get invested when you know it’s only temporary? We hate the inevitable “fair winds, following seas/goodbyes/see you laters”. We all hope to stay connected, but in the back of our mind we understand that some relationships are for a specific time, even if that’s not by choice or how we’d like it to go down, sometimes it just does. It’s hard to maintain true intimacy over the miles. The web makes it easier – but we kid ourselves to believe it’s the same. We miss the day-to-day details of life. Instead we have to be content with the highlight reels until we meet again.  If making friends as an adult is like dating, saying goodbye is the worst kind of breakup.

Why risk being real?

Because it’s worth it. Even though your heart breaks, it’s always worth it. To the degree that saying goodbye sucks, it is to the same degree that being authentic and truly yourself is a breathtakingly beautiful experience.  I would not be the person I am today were it not for the real and honest friendships made along the way.

Reach out. Take the risk. Show up. Be kind. Be real.

It’s always worth it.

Fitness as a Vehicle

I love working out.

Okay, maybe that’s an over-statement. I love the way I feel after I workout. I love the way I can keep up with my kids, I like the strength, and the energy that being fit and pursuing fitness affords. I am clear-headed and more me when I run and workout consistently. It also provides creative inspiration for my work as a writer; a benefit I never saw coming!

Over the last 3 months, I broadened my workout group from 2 people to roughly 20-25 on a regular basis. We are an accountability group. I design and lead workouts, but they continue to show up. They keep coming back for more. Sure, the group is free, but they are willing to be my experiment as I study for my certifications.

During this short time, I have been shocked, floored, and humbled by the comments, kind words, and crazy hard work by these fit friends. I recently received a message that a person was hesitant to join us because she didn’t want to feel weird because she wouldn’t know anyone.

I wanted to reach through the computer and hug her.

Seriously. It was like a window to my thoughts 3 years ago. I was afraid. Of everything. Fear of looking foolish, being out of my comfort zone, fear of what other people would think of me, and fear of failure. It’s so prevalent. We are afraid to reach out to our neighbors. We hesitate to chat up the other mom at the playground. We sit in the same place at church every week because sitting in a spot other than “ours” would mean we may have to meet someone new. It’s scary. Rejection hurts. It’s so much easier to just stay in our own little world and not risk anything.

What I have discovered, in part, over the course of the last 3-4 years is that being brave and stepping out is not only worth it, but it breeds just a tiny bit of confidence to do it again. And again. And again. Until it becomes who you are. What if I had never reached out to my neighbor across the street? What if I had declined invitations to parties and get togethers? What if my then aquaintence chose not to pursue a deeper friendship with me? What if she had never invited me to to join a crazy bootcamp workout class she’d heard about? What if another friend didn’t have the courage to ask if she could join us as we were sweating in my driveway? What if I had been too afraid to ask our community center if we could use the gym through the winter? What if?

The last 3 years would have been entirely different.

When people ask me, “I can’t seem to find the time/motivation to workout. What motivates you to keep working out?” I simply say that exercise and fitness has been the vehicle to so much more than I ever imagined. So much more than just physical. More than just being fit.

It has been the vehicle to cherished friendships, bravery, courage, risk, deep joy, true confidence, the desire to learn and grow, and more. It has changed me for the better. The ability to be in a position to share that gift with someone on their own path is something that overwhelms me.

It is a gift for which I will be forever grateful.