My story starts out like so many others. I’ve never been a skinny girl. Well, there are plenty pictures of me in cute bikinis through, say, age 6, but after that, I generally looked like a little sausage encased in my spandex dance recital outfits. It wasn’t until middle school that I began to sense that my heftier frame was the reason I didn’t fit in; by high school this sense had turned into a painful awareness of my jiggly thunder thighs every time I tried to wear cute shorts from Abercrombie & Fitch like my daintier peers. Although my parents encouraged me to play sports (which, I did, if you define ‘playing’ by riding the bench), I’m not sure they really knew how to instill to me the fitness-related values of a healthy lifestyle. I spent the majority of those years eating as I pleased without consistent exercise and was thus a thick girl who didn’t seem to fit in… although, maybe that’s how we all tend to feel at that age, regardless of how we look.
And so, at some point, I arrived at the thought that getting to the gym was my best bet to try to ‘fix’ my issue. I began to work out at the local Y around age 16, and though my visits were consistent and full of hard work and sweat, I was more or less blind; working out with no goal in mind and certainly not altering my diet. Nothing really changed, but I felt better. Although I didn’t want to admit it or make the change, the missing piece at this point in my life was control over what I ate. I had a vague idea of what ‘healthy’ was, but certainly didn’t practice it with any consistency, and was a mindless snacker. Not to mention the near quarter-cup of sugar I added to my new habit of coffee in the mornings (I was a grown up!).
Although I generally continued to ‘work out’ throughout college and after, my constant struggle was always with food. I did hire a personal trainer my senior year of college who turned me into the lean machine I always knew I could be; but the weight quickly returned when I graduated from school. All of a sudden I found myself with no money to pay for a trainer, sitting behind a desk all day instead of being on my feet waiting tables, and partaking in whatever yummy snacks happened to be in the office kitchen. Blech.
Even though most of these years didn’t really ‘get’ me anywhere in terms of looking different (Which, let’s be honest, isn’t that why most of us start a fitness journey? By not liking how we look?), I feel that the redundant circle of eating unhealthily and working out was an important one, especially in reflection. It showed me that the limiting factor in any plan is almost always diet, and that, for me, diet was always going to be the hard part. Putting in hard work at the gym was relatively easy and the resulting endorphins gave me reason to be consistent with it; it was the other part which eluded me. I think many people struggle with either one or the other; and it’s finding balance that is key.
I finally was able to at least approach this balance when, post-marriage, I was suddenly staring at a number that was upwards of 170 on the scale. SAY WHAT?! For me, weight was always ‘just a number,’ as my generally muscular frame always kept me around 150-155 even though you may have guessed me to be lighter than that. Even at a weight of 135 where I was working my tail off, I was just considered ‘healthy’ by BMI standards. But, seeing that number really hit a nerve. I know a lot of women tend to gain weight after getting married, and this was just another case, but I made the decision to NOT be okay with it. I wanted to be healthy, I wanted to feel beautiful, I wanted something different for my life. I needed a drastic change.
I threw caution to the wind, signed up for a half-marathon, and started running. Running isn’t for everyone, and it was AWFUL to start; I could barely run a quarter mile. There was a lot of walking, a lot of soreness, and a LOT of chafing – but once I crossed that finish line, I was CONVINCED this was my key to success. I bought a scale and began tracking my weight. I learned about food and calories. I began logging what I ate and holding myself accountable for the decisions I made when it came to food. I got back to the gym to start strength training (read: LIFTING per Leigh Ann Yeager). By 2012, I’d lost the 20 pounds I put on in 2009 (plus 5-10 more), ran a 2 hour half marathon, and completed a full marathon in October. Some CRAZY achievements given my starting point.
I’ve managed to keep all of that weight off by making sure I weigh myself 2-3 times a week, and making adjustments where it’s needed. I always expect to gain 5-8lbs over the holidays, but instead of grimacing at the scale when I see that elevated number in January, I suck it up, eat less (and better), and work out more. The formula for that is simple, and if you have the commitment and know that you’ll be happier once you make the changes, it’s 100% worth it.
So far, I’ve relayed my struggles with weight loss, food, and the scale. Even though this was where my journey started, today it is such a small part of what fitness means to me. While there is a LOT to be said for finding a happy weight and being able to embrace and sustain it, living well has brought more meaning to my life than I could have ever asked for. For example, a funny thing happened when I ran that first half-marathon in 2010: random friends started running and training, telling me I was their inspiration – I became the reason: “well, if she can do it, I can.” You can’t imagine how uplifting it is when your actions cause other people to make positive changes in their life – I had at least four friends complete half-marathons over the next couple of years who started training because of me. It was during that time that I thought maybe, just maybe, there was something more to fitness for me than personal growth.
It was around 2012 that I began frequenting a local fitness spot called SYNCSTUDIO. I fell in love with the energy, the people, the support, the laughs, and the community-mindedness. As I grew to know many of the other members, it took me no time to realize that I wanted to make SYNCSTUDIO my new home. If you’ve ever been through the circles of hell trying to get your fitness on track, you know it’s SUPER important to surround yourself with like-minded, kick-a** people on whom you can lean. SYNCSTUDIO and their crazy style of cycling was so invigorating and fun, I took the leap to join their TYRO program and become a SYNCCYCLING instructor. Not long after, I was encouraged to obtain my AFAA personal training certification, to begin to teach SYNCWELLNESS classes, and eventually become a personal trainer (the next leap I plan to take).
Nowadays, fitness is a main focus in my life not only for myself, but for others. I believe that my journey to this point makes me someone who can help others find inner strength through health and wellness – and this, in turn, keeps me on track. I want to show friends and clients that, whether a novice or an expert, there is always going to be something else that can challenge you and push you to new limits – and it’s at that place where the definition of ‘you’ changes, evolves, and becomes stronger. Fitness enables you to learn your strengths and weaknesses and have fun doing it – those are some kind of powerful weapons to have when going through the craziness of life. One of my favorite quotes is ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’: I want to always remember this in my journey, and know that if I embody it, others will follow.