How I Decided to Stop Being Miserable and Start Kicking Ass

When I tell people I am a personal trainer for a large gym chain, they usually exclaim how awesome it must be to be employed at a place where you can work out anytime you want. I thought the same thing when I started. A year and a half later I now understand that though I like working with my clients, the gym is still a job, and that means when my time is my own, the last thing I want to do is be there longer for my own workouts. This led to less and less motivation until I realized one day that my clients were becoming fitter than me.

Fast forward through the general stresses of life like moving back and forth across town a few times, a couple of breakups, a nearly empty summer client schedule, dwindling funds, and lack of exercise, and I have to admit I put on a few pounds. Well, ok, more than a few. Even worse, my energy was lacking, my strength was waning, and the depression demons were starting to eye my growing discontent greedily.

My recent relationship failure was a wake-up call. I immediately decided that I didn’t want to be the person who reclines on a chaise lounge with the back of their hand to their forehead exclaiming “woe is me!” Nope, unacceptable. I decided to use this opportunity to become something better. I took a few days to process the sadness, then got to work.

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“Woe is me!” Hell no, not happening!

It was a convenient coincidence (or was it?) that during this time Groupon happened to offer two things I had been wanting to try: Kettlebell classes and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Both of these classes were close to me and even fit with my schedule. Realizing I needed to be out of my gym’s environment to succeed, I immediately signed up for both.

I have committed to going 5 times a week, as long as my schedule continues to allow it. Having an obligation each morning helps keep me focused and more productive throughout the rest of the day. Working hard next to new moms, overweight empty-nesters, cancer survivors or ultra-fit triathletes boosts me out of the depths of loneliness as we cheer each other on. Now, in week 4, I am starting to notice my endurance improving and my muscles becoming firm again, I am eating cleaner than I have in a year, and I have even lost 2 pounds so far. There are still bad days, but being healthy and strong makes them a lot easier to take on.

Want to hear the best part? The best part is knowing that I am doing this solely for myself. This is my practice, what I do that will lead me one day to say I’m proud of who I am and what I have accomplished. Like a catalyst in a chain reaction, this growing confidence will spread to other areas of my life, and to other people in my life. We’re going nuclear, baby, yeah! An explosion of greatness is about to happen!

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Effecting worldly change whilst kicking some ass. Go me!

Authors note: This post took quite a U-turn. The original intent was to write about injury prevention, but sometimes you just gotta go with the flow and express the message that needs to be given. This helped me process the past 4 weeks of emotional turmoil; I hope it helps you in some small way too!

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How Rock Climbing Is Teaching Me About Failure (and Success!)

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It’s a long way down!

I recently tried rock climbing for the first time. Before they set you loose inside the rock gym you must pass a short course in how to use the harnesses and ropes. I will never forget the moment when  I had climbed halfway up the wall and the instructor said “Okay, now let go and fall.” I looked down, it seemed like a long, long way down, and replied “Are you kidding me?” I remained glued to the wall though my fingers were tiring and my arms beginning to tremble while the instructor coaxed me to simply let go.

I realized a couple things while I was clinging for dear life. First, it’s hard to overcome  a fear that has been ingrained in you for 35 years. Second, it’s difficult to place trust that someone will catch you. Third, that what I was feeling up there on the wall was a lot like my myriad other fears in all facets of my life.

Whatever the struggle, usually we reach a certain point where we are frozen to our wall. Too scared to go up, but even more scared to fall down. We cling to our safety zone, though we become fatigued and tired of being stuck.

When you approach an obstacle, whether it be a 30 foot rock wall or a career or fitness goal, it looks daunting. You observe, gather information, plan your route for reaching the top then tackle it with enthusiasm. Somewhere, halfway up you get stuck and panic sets in. You can let go, give up, and start again, or you can take stock of your resources. Are you using everything available to you to progress? Can you shift right or left, move even an inch up or down to provide more leverage? Does another perspective from a friend or family member offer a solution that you cannot see? 

Usually, the solution isn’t easy. It’s a reach that’s just outside of where you feel stable, a move that requires more power than you think you have left. Your only option is to give it a shot, or give up. I’ve discovered that even though it terrifies me to try, I have been able to reach that next handhold more often than not. Being on the wall is teaching me about trying harder, that you are capable of more than you think you are. Even if you fail, you can try again, and you’ll be stronger the next time. 

So what happened with the first fall I was paralyzed to take? Well, I did it, and you know what? It was kind of fun. Even though I get scared every time I climb, once I reach the top and relish that sense of accomplishment, I can let go, enjoy the smooth ride back down, then tackle the next obstacle.

Thumb-Sucking and the Art of Willpower

When I was little I used to suck my thumb. My mom told me that one day when I was 5, I decided I no longer wanted to suck my thumb and from that day on held my ground and quit a habit that had been part of me for years. I have a memory of this time; of being so steadfast in my belief that I would stop that I had to sit on my hands so I wouldn’t stick my thumb in my mouth. When I look back at that memory I am amazed that such a small child could break a habit by sheer force of will, all on her own.

These days, I look at that child and wish I had her willpower still.  I became so adept at sitting on my hands, so to speak, that I locked myself into the bad habits I have developed as an adult. I often confess that I eat too much sugar and this is a terrible habit I have wanted to break for almost a decade. When people say “That’s easy, just stop eating it!” I sigh, roll my eyes, and whine that it’s just sooooo hard!
It’s easy to use that as an excuse though, to justify a weakness because it seems to take more will than we have. Truth is, we have the will. It may be buried under a few decades of laziness and emotional turmoil, but it’s there.

Me and the infamous thumb, circa 1981-ish

The 5-year old me knew how to overcome these weaknesses with no excuses. The 35-year old me could learn a lot from her.