It was the winter of 2003 when I finally made the decision to start living a healthier lifestyle. It was a year after I had quit smoking and I hadn’t realized how much weight I had put on. I had always been a little overweight but quitting smoking allowed me to gain another 25lbs! It was just a few weeks after my 26th birthday and a friend was showing me the photos she had taken at my birthday party. One photo made me gasp; it was the first time I had ever seen a picture of myself from behind. I threw photo down and vowed that this had to change immediately. I found myself at Spa Lady the very next day; I overhauled my eating habits and got into a routine or working out and watching my portions. I achieved great results with a weight loss of 40lbs and a feeling of confidence and self esteem that I had never had before in my life. I found my weight to be easily maintainable and I swore I would never go back to the way I was before.
Fast forward a couple of years and I got a great new job at a big company downtown, a desk job. I had previously spent 55 hours a week on my feet while working in a professional kitchen and now I was to be sitting on my butt for a mere 37.5 hours a week in a comfy office. Seemed like a dream come true. Turns out it was far more difficult to maintain my fitness level in my new environment. I had never before had a sedentary job and I put 20lbs on in short order and right before my wedding no less. I’ll never forget the scene at my dress fitting where I was in tears while the seamstress tried to stuff me into my dream dress that now longer fit. I sobbed and swore to her to would get the weight off in time. Needless to say, the dress had to be let out. How could I have kept the weight off while working in a kitchen, surrounded by delicious food and where the meals were free? It turns out that there’s far more junk food kicking around in an office than anywhere else and the stress of my new job left me vulnerable to temptation. Besides the weight gain, I also found myself drained of the energy I once had and I developed chronic pain in my wrists and hands due to the repetitive motion on my keyboard. Also, the change in schedule really messed with my workout program, I wasn’t able to put in the time that I once could. I can honestly say that this was one of the lowest points of my weight-loss journey, I felt even worse than I had before when I was far more overweight. I had never been thin or fit before so I hadn’t really known what I was missing out on. I can’t even begin to describe how angry I was with myself for letting everything I had worked so hard for just slip away like that. How could I have achieved more than I ever thought possible and then not hold on to it? Determined to lose the weight, I committed myself to cardio, cardio and more cardio but to no avail. I cleaned up my diet but was still not really seeing results. I beat myself up about it constantly; I was my own worst enemy. I don’t think I realized that I was absolutely getting in the way of my own success.
I had always enjoyed working out solo and had achieved great success that way and so I never even considered having a trainer. One day I looked at the sign on the wall at Spa Lady offering a deal on personal training sessions and I finally decided that what I was doing wasn’t working so it was time for a change. Sign me up!
I hired Lara as my trainer and told her my goals were weight loss and to tighten and strengthen my core. She started me on a circuit-style program combining weight training with bursts of intense cardio with a very high emphasis on core strength. My program was full of planks in every imaginable incarnation and I could feel my core getting stronger. Unfortunately, the pain I experienced in my wrists and hands was sometimes unbearable. I would actually choose to do a burpee at the end of each plank walk to get some pressure off my hands for just a moment! This pain was a real hindrance for me at the start of my program but Lara was always there giving me the encouragement I needed to push through those really tough moments. A very unexpected and amazing thing arose from this; the pain has almost completely disappeared!! I have developed such strength throughout my forearms, wrists and hands simply because I did push myself. I had accepted this condition as something permanent and from which I would never find relief. I can now say I am almost completely free of that burden. Another surprising health benefit was that my blood pressure went from a normal 120/80 to 110/60 which my doctor attributed to my intense exercise regime, all this working out has made my body more efficient!
I used to have the bad habit of training the way that many men do; focusing all my attention to the areas that develop fast, my arms and shoulders, while completely neglecting my lower body. When my previous job required that I spend the entire day on my feet I avoided doing much of a lower body workout since having a sore lower half made crouching, bending and lifting at work just too painful. I wish I would’ve known then that squats and lunges are actually functional exercises that make bending and lifting in day to day life so much easier and lowers the chance of injury. I no longer neglect training my lower body and am happy to say that I no longer have the flat butt that never looked quite right in a pair of jeans. My glutes have lifted, my hamstrings have rounded and I have experienced a huge reduction in the cellulite that plagues all the women in my family. I now have definition in my quads and firmer thighs than I ever though possible!! I had always been so embarrassed by my flabby thighs and had not worn shorts for over 10 years, even at my thinnest! I had unfortunately suffered from skinny-fat syndrome at the time from not training my lower body. Now I no longer feel self conscious and wear shorts with pride!
Lara has implemented tons of plyometric and balance exercises into my program and also combination moves that require coordination. In the beginning, she would have to demonstrate these types of exercises several times before I could understand them and even then I still found them quite difficult. Again, I never would’ve even attempted such things on my own as balance and coordination have never been my strong suit. Lara taught me to use my core and really focus my mind and over time I was able to perform them with greater ease. I had no idea that improved stability and coordination would come as a result of doing certain exercises. I have to say that this was another huge bonus in addition to all the other things that training has given me.
Surprisingly, I found out that I actually don’t prefer to work out alone. There are so many great exercises that simply require two people to perform. It also feels great to have someone to interact with and receive feedback from, especially after a long day at work. I’m able to talk with my trainer in a way that I find to be therapeutic. I guess there is a real mental aspect to personal training. It calms my over-active brain and I leave the gym relaxed, even after a severe butt-kicking. Not too long ago I was having a bad day but 5 minutes into my workout I couldn’t have told you what I was even upset about. Lara had me pushing myself so hard that there was just no room in my mind for anything negative, all my focus had to go into the challenging task at hand. For me, there really is no greater stress reliever than a super-demanding workout. All that focus I use during my workouts has also carried over into my life outside the gym. I feel more efficient, organized and even better at my job. My mind is now so clear and my enthusiasm is through the roof. I leave the gym everyday now with a bounce in my step that I didn’t have for a long time. I would have to say that training has been as beneficial to my overall state of mind as it has been for my body.
With a personal trainer, I find myself doing exercises that I had never seen or even heard of before. It’s quite often now that the most difficult exercises are the ones that become my favorites; plank walks with a burpee, incline reverse crunches, crunches with 5 twists on the way down – I call these Gut Manglers, it feels like someone has braided your insides. Prisoner squats are also a great example of a horrific exercise that makes me feel amazing after I complete them. They’ve become a staple in my program. I get such a sense of pride and accomplishment when I am able to perform such difficult tasks. It fuels my motivation even further. The best thing that I’ve gotten from all this butt-kicking is the actual, visible results! The funny thing is that I didn’t see my numbers move too much at first, down about 5lbs, a half inch here and there. This was really hard for me to accept at first but then I calmed down and came to the realization that it’s not about the numbers, it’s about feeling better in my clothes (and feeling better out of them), being able to see muscles in my arms and back, getting compliments on my biceps, seeing smoothness in my hips, being able to do jumping jacks without all the jiggle, standing taller and walking with my head held high. It’s about gaining strength and stamina and being able to really see what you’re capable of. I’m now down about 8lbs but I’m wearing clothes right now that I used to wear when I was 7lbs lighter than I am right now. I’m actually proud to say that now because I know it’s because I’ve gained so much more muscle. By putting such a major emphasis on core, I’ve shrunk about 2 inches in my waist and hips. My shape has completely transformed, I feel strong and confident and that a huge weight has been lifted. I no long carry around the weight of the disappointment I had felt in myself. That in itself is a major accomplishment for me.
Probably the best part of this entire journey has been discovering how fitness is such an important part of my life and recognizing that the reason I have this passion is that I’m supposed to use it to help other people. In showing other people all the great things I was learning in my training, I realized that I found incredible personal fulfillment when I teach someone how to do something they thought was impossible and making it fun at the same time. I find a great deal of satisfaction in seeing that my enthusiasm helps motivate other people. I love being able to inspire people to get their butts off the couch and reach for their goals. I’ve now taken the Canfit Pro Personal Trainer course, I’m working on a diploma of nutrition and I’ve taken a TRX instructor course. I am just so inspired to motivate others to take control of their lives, health and happiness by getting their bodies moving. Personal training has enhanced my life in so many ways. It has taken me on an exciting new career path, given me my confidence back and inspired me to help others. I am 33 years old and in the best shape of my life. I have been lifted in mind, body and spirit and it doesn’t get any better than that.