Fit For Me
I loved playing sports when I was growing up. No matter the season, there was always a sport that I was competing in or possibly another for which I was training. Looking back, the challenge of competing and the overall good feeling I got from being so active did a lot to shape the person I am today.
I never would have guessed then that I would grow up and start a career in personal training. But a few years ago I got to a point where my 9-to-5 job just wasn’t making me happy anymore. I had found out that I was pregnant, and I decided that I wanted to be able to have the flexibility to spend time with my child. Having an interest in fitness and having enjoyed some of the youth sports coaching I’d been doing, I decided to pursue a career in personal training.
I started my career working at a gym that focused primarily on training individuals for bodybuilding competitions. While I was proud of my physique as a reflection of the effort I put into my workouts, the idea of becoming a bodybuilder had never really crossed my mind. The competitive nature I had honed from years of playing sports, however, was enticed by the prospect of competing against my peers. I began to train for my first bodybuilding competition.
As you might imagine, training for a bodybuilding competition is very physically challenging. My days were packed with long weightlifting sessions and grueling cardiovascular workouts designed to accentuate the striations of my muscles. The mental aspect, however, took an even greater toll on my life. Every little thing I did was viewed through the lens of someone preparing for a bodybuilding competition; was I helping or hurting my chances? Every meal had to be the right mix of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, and I was always questioning whether I was taking the right supplements to give me an edge. Social media is full of people documenting their own training; it was hard not to compare myself to the photos I saw of people online, regardless of the fact that they might have been competing for longer than I had, might be using special filters to change the appearance of their photos, and who might have had the edge of performance-enhancing drugs. It’s difficult enough to deal with these sorts of things as a single woman, but as a wife and mother I had more than myself to think about.
The stress doesn’t end with the competition. You push yourself and your body to an unsustainable apex and then have to readjust to everyday life. Some bodybuilders binge and gain a lot of weight in an unhealthy way, while others try futilely to maintain their competition physique. Pushing yourself that hard for that long can distort just what “normal” and “healthy” mean to you. Lots of people who get into bodybuilding already come to the sport with body image issues, and the aftermath of competing can be difficult.
I don’t think I realized just how much of an effect that training for the competitions and working in an environment that specialized in that sort of training had on me until I decided to take a position at my current health club. Working with a staff whose focus was on helping our members and clients on their paths to living healthier lives was a refreshing change from the myopic and grueling focus of preparing for competitions. I have finally reached the point of work-life balance that I was looking for when I got into the personal training field. I still work out, but I don’t feel conflicted about taking a day off or feel like my colleagues will make note of it. I eat a healthy diet but also don’t deny myself some of the more calorie-rich foods that I have always enjoyed. And I find myself more able to enjoy the time I spend outside of the gym.
When I work with a new client, we always take time to discuss why they want personal training. They might have different ways of expressing it, but the bottom line is that it’s because they want to live more fulfilling lives by being healthier. Being able to help them reach their goals has made my life more fulfilling and inspires me to keep striving toward living my best life. My advice to you and my clients is to not fear making change that you think will make you happier, even if it might seem difficult at first, because in the end it will be worth the work.