All the Feels

One day I decided to apply for a job and chase a dream.

Scratch that. I procrastinated for 2 years because I was scared of failing. I stuck a toe in the water, but got my teeth kicked in. A year later, I carried around an application in my car for a week waiting. Waiting for confidence, the right moment, or whatever. I was just plain scared. I don’t “look” like a trainer. I’m not 20 and a size 2. But I filled out that application.

While filling it out, one of the fitness directors came over to chat with me. He took a chance on a stay at home mom with a dream. Shortly after I started teaching spin classes again, I was hired as a personal trainer. Had it not been for this initial conversation, among many other circumstances leading up to it, I would probably still be waiting. Waiting for confidence, waiting to feel like I’d “earned” the right to chase this dream.

Now I’m over a year in, and as the minions are closing out this year of school, I am stepping away from the personal training and will be continuing with only the group training. I still get to do work I love, but I will have more time for my family. It is certainly a bittersweet transition as I look back on this year and these wonderful people I am lucky enough to work with everyday.

Clients have lost weight and they’ve indeed gotten stronger. But it’s the non-scale victories that give me goosebumps, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, and feel all the feels.

“I took down my daughter while wrestling. She got up and said, ‘Wow mom! You’re strong!'”

Transforming from “I’m not comfortable in a bathing suit” to “Look at me. Who cares? I don’t care. I work.”

Going from: “I’m nervous about trying out for the team. What if I’m not good enough?” to “Coach singled me out and said, ‘Do it like her – she’s the hardest worker here!'” grinning as she relays what coach said  because she moved through the fear of the unknown and did something scary, and is excelling at it.

Chatting at the end of a spin class about how so much of fitness is not about the physical. Letting new people know that, “it’s hard at first, but keep coming back. It’s the sitting in the mental stuff and working through it. Clearing out the can’t and bringing in the CAN.” I got to watch as others spoke up about what fitness has done for them, what it means to them.

Being texted pictures with the caption: “I bought a new swimsuit and I feel amazing in it! Thank you!”

Being shown pictures with ear to ear grins instead of hiding behind the camera, or behind other people.

“Oh! I love that TRX. I can’t wait to tell my husband what I did today! That was so hard. But I did it!” – 65 year old client.

Laughing with clients when they say they hate me as they smile at me and roll their eyes. (But yet they keep coming back…)

“I can’t believe I made it through that class! You never make it easy. You tell me what I need to hear, even if I don’t like it at the time.”

“I’m signing up for my first 5k. I can’t wait!”

“I haven’t done a headstand in forever! It’s kind of scary to be upside down,” she said giggling. “But I did it!”

“I’m off of blood pressure and diabetes meds! All gone!”

“I almost walked out. It was so tough. But when you said, ‘We aren’t quitters in this room’ I knew I could do it. Thank you! I’m so glad I stuck it out!”

“It took me 12 weeks, but I can now stand up every time you do and keep up in spin! I leave here floating!”

“Can I get in an extra session with you this week? This is SO fun!”

“I just feel so good. Not only do I feel better, my clothes fit better, but I realize how bad I felt before. Four months ago, I was such a different person. And the person I am today was screaming to get out.”

Being a witness to the deep stuff that tends to happen – the hard stuff. Being thanked for doing my job. A job that enables me to witness courage, to witness determination, to witness stomping fear in the face. Being humbled by the stories of these amazingly strong people. “Today I was able to take off my own shirt without help, I’m getting stronger and my balance is better,” a client (who happens to be recovering from an accident that has her in a wheelchair) told me.

“I have hope again.”

These are just a few of the things I will never, ever forget.

I’ve been told, “I hear you in my head when I’m working out now. Ugh!”

I remember saying that to my trainer. (I still hear her screaming at me “DON’T QUIT! QUIT QUITTING ON YOURSELF!” You can check out her awesome self at DumBell Fitness!)

I know well those voices that propel us further when we just want to give up. I’m humbled and beyond grateful for the opportunity to be that voice for others, if only for this season. While my voice may be stuck in their heads, their strength, their tenacity, and their willingness to learn will forever be in mine.

Here’s to the next chapter!

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Brain Bombs and Power

I fired off an email to a friend/mentor of mine after having an off week. In training people, it is much the same as in training yourself. There are excuses, days where you just aren’t feeling it, and many, many qualifiers. Qualifiers typically go something like this:

Client: “I wish I could lose weight faster. I’m working out regularly. I’m eating right. I just don’t get it. Why is the weight not coming off?”

Me: “Talk to me about diet. What does a typical day look like?”

Client: “I eat a great breakfast and I’m getting a lot more veggies in,”

Pause.

Me: Silence. Waiting for it.

Client: “…but, I did have just one ____________ (fill in the blank with whatever food they currently deem as ‘bad’) then I went out for so-and-so’s birthday and it would have been rude to not have at least a little piece of cake. My kid had a bad day so we went out for ice-cream to cheer him up.”

Blah, blah, blah. All of the reasons why I didn’t do what I said I was going to do. There is always a “but…” That’s the qualifier.

We then have a great conversation about moderation, how the turtle wins the race every time I read The Tortoise and the Hare. We discuss that foods need no moral judgement. Food is neither good nor bad. It just is. Will some food give you indigestion? Yep. Will others give you energy? Yep. Will still others spike your blood sugar and give you a crash later? You bet. But food isn’t moral. It just is. While we are at it – you are not a dog. Mind blowing, right? You are not “good” because you stuck to a stupid diet. You are likewise not “bad” because you didn’t. People who obtain AND maintain health over the long term do not subscribe to a good/bad philosophy when it comes to food or themselves.

The email I sent described the realization that as a trainer, I cannot walk this journey for anyone else. I’m a signpost holder. I can show you the how, but the doing has to be done solo. I can want it for you. (I WANT IT SO BAD FOR EVERYONE! It feels incredible to be comfortable in your own skin and to have energy and strength to get through the day!) Ultimately, we each have to walk the path for ourselves. 

Do you ever encounter people that say something and it’s like, “Whoa. Mind completely blown”? Usually it’s something profound, simple and very direct. I feel fortunate to have a few mind-blowers in my life. The mentor I sent the email to had this to add, “I also don’t allow any clients to give me credit for their health and fitness successes. Never allow them to be in the position to give their power away. They did the work, they take the credit.”

Brain bomb.

Mind blown.

So simple, but very profound.

Getting healthy and adapting new habits isn’t easy. I get that. It doesn’t come naturally for me either. But whether I succeed or I take a detour or two, the power is in me.

And you. You hold the power to do what you want. 

Whether it’s fat loss, fitness, parenting, or whatever else – we hold the power to choose.

Success or detours are entirely in YOUR hands.

Blue Space

Texas sure knows how to do thunder.

And lightening.

Sitting in the car while big ‘ole fat rain pounded on the roof, I reached over to grab my phone. In line for school pick up, Facebook and a smartphone provide ample entertainment and distraction. (Yes, I was parked. No, I do not look at my phone while driving.) This time, I reached into my purse only to realize I’d left it in my work bag. At home. “That’s okay,” I thought to myself. “I’ll use this time to read my book.”

Yep, left that at home, too.

I had to just sit. And wait. The school pick up line requires about 30 minutes of waiting time, more if you arrive early to be near the start of the line. I looked out the window and admired the bright bolts streaking against the clouds while the booms shook the car. There isn’t really anything quite like a real thunderstorm.

This date makes many of us reflective, myself included. I’ve written about 9/11. It’s been 14 years. Fourteen. Looking up at the clouds, I saw a tiny circle of blue in the middle of all the ominously gray and black clouds. Reminded of a quote my niece shared recently, I forgot all about the phone and book I had neglected to bring.

“Think about the eye of a hurricane, or the calm still center of a cyclone. No matter how intense the storm or what’s swept up in its gale-force winds, that calm, blue center is always there. This is the metaphor I like to use when talking about the space between stimulus and response. We all have this quiet center within us. Mindfulness reconnects us to this center space, where we fully experience the present moment and have access to the transcendent wisdom that’s often associated with conscious flow. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl famously described it this way: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – George Mumford, The Mindful Athlete

It has been a while since I’ve just been. To pray something more than, ‘Oh give me strength to get through this day,’ ‘I need more patience with the kids,’ or ‘Help me say the right words, be more kind, do well at my job etc.’ -type of prayers, to just sit in the ‘blue space’ and be. And ask for nothing.

I thought about the friend of a friend whose baby is battling cancer. Cancer. A 1 year old. ‘How does she pray?’ I found myself wondering.  In the blue space, I found myself not only saying a prayer for her and her sweet babe, but saying thank you. Thank you that my children are healthy.

I have a client who is paralyzed from the waist down. She comes in to workout, and she works hard. Not only the physical aspects of lifting weight and doing exercises, but she works hard at ignoring the pitying glances. She doesn’t want or need pity. She’s just there to do her work. She has goals to walk again. She has hope. I find myself thinking of her and her strength. What it takes to even get to the gym, let alone battle the stares once she arrives. In that blue space, I am thankful for a body that does what I need it to do and then some. I get to run for fun. I can go to whatever store or restaurant I want to and not think about what the infrastructure will be like and will it accommodate a wheelchair. 

I get to work with people. People who want and need help. I have met some incredible folks who humble me on multiple levels. People who are dealing with some crazy-hard life stuff. But while dealing with what life has thrown at them, they continue to show up. They continue to have hope. To be brave. Had I not said, “Yes,” to invitations, had I been too afraid to step outside of my comfort zone time after time, my life would be entirely different. I am so grateful for the yes; even to the scary stuff. Because of the yes, I now get a daily front row view of bravery and hope in action.

On days like today, it’s easy for me to get swept into the heavy heart stuff. In the blue space thinking about the last year, as well the day fourteen years ago, I find myself unable to say anything other than thank you. 

Thank you.

I’m so glad I forgot my phone. I needed some time in the blue space.

Ten Minutes and a Whole Lot of Gratitude

There’s a prompt each day for random topics to discuss, and one that comes up is a ten minute free-write. Whatever we want – just type for ten minutes. No editing, no evaluating. Just sit down, and type what comes to mind. Here are ten minutes in my mind…

I’m tired. But the good kind of tired.

Driving home from the airport after dropping off my niece from her week long visit (that really should have been longer!) I just feel…content. 

Last weekend I passed my NASM exam. (This is a national personal training certification.) I had built this test up in my mind as something unattainable. I was so afraid of failing that I procrastinated doing it for 3 and a half years. Better to have a dream out in front in the realm of “someday”, than to crash and burn, right? (WRONG.)

A few months ago, a conversation with a couple of close friends brought up the subject of goals. With every duty station move, there tends to be a loose list of things to accomplish in that 3 year time frame. It can be travel, sight-seeing, and of course fitness goals. This year, the theme of “doing” kept recurring. Instead of “I’m planning on…” and “I’m going to…,” it has become a year of intentional action. This is the time to chase dreams and see where it takes us.

Scary? You bet! Worth it? Of course!

Over the last few months, I’ve been doing something that seemed like a wish; a hope that someday I might be a trainer. That I might get the opportunity to not only do what I love, but maybe even help someone else live a more healthy, fit life. I know in my bones that I am an encourager and a teacher. It’s been the common thread in every career field I’ve ever worked. I think that’s the scary part. To know with out a shadow of a doubt what your purpose is – and then to go out and find a way to live it.

I love watching that lightbulb moment when a client surprises themselves with just how strong and capable they are. When they start opting for the harder modification, just to push their own limits of what they think they can do. Seeing people come back to spin class even though it’s tough, and get stronger. When they come tell me that their spouse is proud of them, and how their face lights up when they do. That moment when they express how much better they feel, that they didn’t know that exercise and eating right would give them more energy, even though that seems counterintuitive. Today there was a guy working out and having overheard a conversation I was having about nutrition and how it may not be flashy, but eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly does, in fact, work, he had to come over and tell me about his journey and how he has lost weight – even sharing his before pictures. I LOVE these moments. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a witness to these non-scale victories, to be the sounding board when someone just needs a space to celebrate success no matter how small it may seem. It’s confirmation that I’m not only doing something that I love and am passionate about, passing on a tremendous gift that was given to me, but that it matters. It matters to this small handful of people who I get the pleasure of working with.

Ten minutes of gratitude. I could write about this forever. It’s inspiring to watch people grow into who they are meant to be. I always say that fitness is a vehicle to so much more. You may think you are strength training, doing some push ups and bicep curls, but it’s more than that. The determination to enact habit and life-long positive change is huge and bleeds over into every aspect of life. When we take care of our physical bodies, our relationships with significant others improves, how we treat ourselves teaches others how to treat us. It gives our kids a glimpse of what self-care looks like in action, and of course all of the health benefits to boot.

Fitness is a vehicle to much, much more. And for that – I will be forever grateful.

My Fit Friend Joy!

One of the mamas in the neighborhood joined our little workout group at the beginning of the year and has been working out consistently since. She joined our group, not knowing anyone – but knowing she wanted in.

She embodies brave. She gets it done. I often saw her running on the treadmills at the community center AFTER our brutal workouts. She was usually the first one there, and often one of the last to leave.

Although she ran track in high school, she signed up and ran her very first 5k race with others from our group. Not only did she lose 30 pounds, but she did it while her spouse was deployed! Fitness is more than just a smaller jean size. It’s taking back your power. It’s learning that you are more than just the role you happen to fill as mother, wife, daughter, or any job title.

Joy and her hubby are getting fit together. She was getting fit here, while he was working out on deployment. And in a strange twist, he attended classes taught by my friend in Japan, while his wife and I workout out with our neighborhood group. It is such a small navy community!

Deployments are never easy – but you have never let that stop you! Beyond thrilled for you Joy!

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Happy Handstand!
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Joy holding the amount of weight she has lost in medicine balls!