Complicated Risk

BAM!

The sudden crack of the window next to my computer sounded like the thud of an errant ball lobbed in the wrong direction and as soon as it did, I ducked, certain I was about to be covered in shards.

When the raining glass never fell, I opened my blinds to figure out what the heck had slammed so hard. There lay a bird in the grass, blinking slowly, stunned.

I took a deep breath and watched.

Early this morning at church (and for as long as I can remember) our pastor discussed getting involved. “Become a part of the community,” they invite, week after week. They have this picture of the church logo at the front of the sanctuary, but it’s all puzzle pieces. Various names have been written on a few – a visual of people volunteering time and talents for the community at large.

I’ve often contemplated volunteering, not just here, but at many of the churches we’ve attended in various duty stations. Some I have, others I haven’t. We’ve done children’s church, nursery care, and hosted small groups. Looking at our last year here, I’ve been telling myself, “We only have one year. Why bother now?” I also work at a gym. I know in my bones that working in this field is what I’m meant to do. It’s a way to serve others, help, and contribute something positive. I know the positive impact that health and fitness has had in my life, as well as my family’s – how could I not pay that forward?

We all have a tendency to complicate these things when we are afraid of being told no, or of what we perceive as failing. It has been put to me (in numerous ways, as will happen) that “I have a year left. What am I going to do with that year?” If the invitation presents itself, what will I do with it? Will I say no? My introverted self would like that. No risk, but no reward, either.

Towards the end of today’s sermon, the pastor takes two of the puzzle pieces out of the easel and throws them in two directions. One flies in one direction, the other flies in front of my seat. Usually when I hear people talking about “God saying” this or that, I cringe. It always sounds “churchy” to me. How the heck do you know what God is saying?

I chuckle at Lily Tomlin’s quote: “Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?”

While I have never heard God audibly speak, I do experience intuition, a gut-knowing, a without-question-clear-cut indication when I’m being urged in one direction or another. Call that what you want, God, the universe, what have you – it’s usually pretty clear. The question is always, how then do I respond?

Eric heads off to pick up the kids and hands me the puzzle piece. I promptly head to the bathroom to collect my thoughts. What if I’ve got this all wrong? Who needs a fitness instructor in the church?

Ugh. Okay, okay, fine. I’ll go.

I swallow my nerves, gather my stuff and that darn puzzle piece and wait a moment to chat with the pastor. Holding it up, “Can I chat with you for a moment about this,” I ask, voice trembling, hand shaking. “Sure!” he says as he takes the piece. Briefly explaining what I do and my passion, his eyes light up and he nods, taking down my number, asking if we can meet later this week to discuss ideas further.

*FREAKING OUT*

“I would love that,” I exhale, relieved, grateful that I’m not way off base here in thinking that perhaps fitness and the church community are not mutually exclusive.

My thoughts return to the stunned bird at the bottom of my windowpane. She’s still blinking. I watch as she continues to slowly blink her blue-rimmed eyes. A quiet, “Get up little, one. you can do this,” comes out. I want to call my kids over to watch, but hesitate, not sure if this bird is going to make it or not. I don’t want to frighten the poor thing, or have my daughter want to bring it inside, only to be heartbroken if it doesn’t survive. She gingerly stands up, waddles over to the edge of the window where I can no longer see her. I don’t know if she will make a go of it, if she’s broken a wing or a leg.

Perhaps today, right now, it’s just enough that she took a step.

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The Boat

It’s ugly here right now. More often than not I feel like the father in Mark 9:24 “I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!” I go from being so sure, to being completely uncertain and shaken. I’m sort of, just…numb.

There’s so much hate. So much anger and rage.

Just like there has always been, I suppose. The difference is we hear it all the time. It’s beaten into our ears with our 24 hour news cycle and imprinted for our eyes to hungrily feast on anytime we look at our screens. Our hearts and spirits are broken. We are so broken. I don’t know how to explain things to my children. So I don’t. I may be wrong by shielding them, but selfishly, I’d like to preserve their innocence just a little bit longer.

How much longer will it be like this? You said that we “will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that [we] are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” It’s hard to not be alarmed. To not be scared. Is what I’m doing enough? Is raising children to be kind, patient, loving and productive adults going to be enough? Is helping people workout their physical health serving a greater good? I’d like to believe it does. But, I’m not always so sure.

In church today our pastor spoke of Peter in the boat. He called out to you, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water,” and you said, “Come” but the minute he shifted focus from you and saw the wind – he sank. Our focus has to be you.

The boat is like life. We can be in this cushy comfortable “boat” and say, “I follow you” but you aren’t in the boat, are you? You are outside the safe and the comfortable. You aren’t in the nice cars and the polished exteriors. You don’t only reside in the nicer part of town. What you ask of us is scary. It scares me. Am I really willing to go deeper? Life is scary outside the boat. Making my beliefs match my actions is so hard. All the dramas, the petty things and the minutiae of life shift my focus all the time.

All. the. time.

I want to radically follow. Help my unbelief. Help me push through the fear. Help me not get sidetracked by crap that is of no lasting significance.

I know sitting shocked and marveling at the injustice of the world, remarking about how awful things are right now is doing nothing to change it. Being distracted by angry words and watching virtual word battles between sides of all manner of issues helps no one. So I will turn away from the ugly. I will turn towards you.

And step outside this boat.

 

 

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!

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.

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. 

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!

Just Say Yes

How many times do we do things from a place of fear?

“I don’t want to go to that birthday party. I don’t know anyone.”

“What if there is no one to talk to?”

“What if I join that running club and everyone is faster than me?”

“Let’s just sit in the car in the school pick up line. That way I won’t have to make small talk.”

I do – a lot more than I’d like to admit. Things like avoiding parties. Signing up for the minimum of school stuff. I’m a homebody. I like my space. But….every single time I just say yes and take a chance – I always end up having a great time and am grateful I made the decision to just go. Even when it’s hard.

Sure, sometimes its awkward. I keep thinking about these little people that my actions influence. What do I teach my kids about getting out and meeting people in our new community if I’m not willing to try? Oy. This parenting thing will make you deal with your stuff, won’t it?! How can I complain about not having adult friends if I’m not willing to be open to the possibility?

With all that vomited all over the page, here’s what I’m looking forward to over the next six months:

Saying yes. Yes to birthday parties, social invites, and even joining the local running club. (And yes, I am cringing at that!) It may be hard. It may be awkward or uncomfortable, but doing the uncomfortable is something that I have yet to regret. The bonus is that I will be better armed to teach my kids how to say yes to opportunities – even when it scares them.

Do you have to force yourself to say yes, or are you a natural extrovert? When you move to a new place, how do you put yourself out there and meet new people? If you are military, do you stick to fellow spouses or branch out?