Have you ever gone in to get your hair done and the stylist had horrible hair? Have you ever seen a dentist or hygienist with bad teeth? Be honest .. If you had, you’d kinda judge them, right? Because if they are going to get it right for you, shouldn’t they be the best example of what they do best?
I think about this every time I meet a new client. Whether they want to hire me to be a new personal trainer to get back into shape or they are coming to one of my seasonal 8 week run training sessions to improve for their next race, I think about what I look like and wonder if they are noticing a dentist with bad teeth.
I’m not saying that I’m grossly overweight. I know that I’m not. I couldn’t run as much as I do if I were. But I think people come to expect that if you are a fitness trainer of any kind, you should have a hard body and no visible fat on your ass. I don’t look like Jillian Michaels. I jiggle when I run. I’m sometimes okay with that, but truthfully, I’m mostly not. Because I wonder how people judge me. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.
There was a time, about two years ago, that I was in the best shape of my life. I was running races fast, I had never-ending energy, and I could keep up with or lead anyone in a workout. I could fit into a size 4 and sometimes smaller. I had enviable arms and actual visible abs. I could also do a 22 minute plank and I did a 60 minute burpee challenge after a long marathon training run. Does this sound like I’m bragging? That’s okay if you think so. Because I was really proud of how fit I was then. I worked hard for it, and it doesn’t come naturally to me like it does for some people. I earned every one of those muscles I gained.
The person I was then looked more like a fitness trainer than the person I am today. But that person wasn’t living a sustainable lifestyle. I have a family. I have clients. I have a life. There was a time that I was working out 5+ days a week on top of running. I was gone, a lot. I ate pretty clean, but I missed the things that made me happy, food and otherwise. What I was looked pretty in a pair of jeans but it wasn’t very happy inside. Proud, sure. Strong, yes. But joyful, no. Because it’s never enough. It’s never fulfilling in the end.
These days, I enjoy things more. I used to work out, and now I’ll take the kids to the park instead. Instead of watching every crumb that goes into my mouth, I’ll take my sons to a coffee shop and split a donut with them. I put my client’s workouts before my own. They invite me to work out with them, but that’s not why I’m there. I’ll take classes sometimes and struggle through them. If you were next to me in my Barre class, you would see I’m doing modified push-ups these days. I’d like to do them from my toes, but it’s more important to do them right than to worry about my pride. I don’t always want people to know I’m a trainer, because they might look at me and think “why would I pay HER to train me when she so obviously isn’t in shape either?”
But here’s the thing. I think some of my clients actually like that I look like a real person. That I have curves and soft spots. That I admit that I drink beer and eat ice cream after the kids go to bed. And I think back to when I was at my lowest point in my life, my most lonely and unhappy. It was also when I was at my most overweight. There are lots of people who are “fat and happy” but I was not one of them. Seeing the hardbodies at the gym when I finally decided to turn things around actually discouraged me because it was so out of reach for me. I wanted a trainer who’d been where I was. Someone who knew how hard it was in the trenches. The people that didn’t have to struggle for every inch lost, those that could eat what they wanted without a thought in the world.. Those people were awesome but they didn’t fully understand the journey that I was on.
I hope that I can be that glimmer of hope for even one person. I’m not perfect. I have decided to meet my curves halfway. I am not skinny, but I still feel healthy inside my soul where it counts. I still don’t like seeing photos of myself with the extra weight, but it’s all about where you’re willing to compromise. I can still run a marathon, it’s just going to take longer. And that’s okay, because it makes the finish line that much sweeter. And the beer at the end taste that much better too.