For so long my identity has been tied up in being a fitness trainer. At one point in my life I felt like that was my passion. And it was. But that was back in 1997 when I first started and was a lot younger. Now, I’m 45 and have been on hiatus from training clients since 2010 because I felt that the spark was gone and I needed to take a break to see if continuing in that field was really what I wanted to do. It wasn’t an overnight decision but one that had a lot of factors built into it. The irony to my story of becoming a fitness trainer is that I am also someone who has suffered from body image issues and and an eating disorder since elementary school. Of course, when I first became a trainer I saw an opportunity to finally address these issues but not in a healthy way and of course, I didn’t. I must admit though that as the years went on, my mind set shifted from doing extremely unhealthy things to achieve what was a never ending, never satisfied hamster wheel of trying to achieve what I thought I wanted to look like to ultimately liking what I look like, accepting my body fat percentage and finding new gratitude and appreciation in my athletic physique as well as encouraging and motivating my clients to truly except who they were and not pay attention to the number on the scale but instead to focus on their athletic ability and the things that they could do on a daily basis that was above the average person. Even with this shift in my mind set, in the back of my mind I still struggled, to an extent, with feeling pressured to look a certain way. Although mild, it was still there. At that point I had to really consider if being in the fitness field was truly conducive to my ongoing issues about body image and food. So I took a break. That was 6 years ago and since then I’ve taken on other endeavors in the social work field. Not becoming a social worker, but helping to re-train social workers on how to interact with families in a better way. Yes, completely different than Fitness. While I’ve been doing this work I’ve come to realize that while I still think somewhere deep down I have a passion for Fitness or at least an extreme enthusiasm for it and the desire to teach others about it, it’s not my calling so as a result, I’ve been at a crossroads ever since. I know that when you try to force something, it won’t work and people really DO need to find what it is that makes them happy. I’ve come to accept the fact that Fitness may not be my passion anymore, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be involved in it while pursuing other career choices. However my dilemma comes with the fact that I have allowed my identity to become being a trainer and being connected to the fitness world. It was one of those jobs that when people found out that’s who I was, it never failed to get a response that resembled that of envy or one of being held in high status. Although I have other interests that I would love to pursue such a psychology, technology, etc. I’m finding it really hard to do what one might call, reinvent myself. Its not just about reinvention, but also about letting go of the old and allowing the new to take place. Time is ticking and I know that I need to buckle down, focus and move forward. After all, I’m not getting any younger, I have too much potential and there’s so much left for me to do.
I heard something recently that really struck a chord within me: your identity is not in WHAT you do, but in WHO you are. For the last 5 years I’ve been somewhat at a crossroads. When I left Stanford Athletics as a fitness trainer back in 2009, I was fortunate enough financially to be able to take a couple years off and really think about the direction I wanted to go. Having been a fitness trainer since 1997 and during that time made my way up to a fitness supervisor, a fitness manager and then eventually branch out on my own with private clients and working at different clubs in different states, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue in the field or not. I realized that although I have a passion for fitness, I don’t think it’s my calling. In 2011 I branched out into a whole new field in the Social Services field as a Community Partner/Stakeholders, helping trainers re train Social Workers as well as being a part of inventing the 23 model behaviors Social Workers are suppose to start implementing when engaging families. I got so much out of working with the Social Workers and seeing a first hand look at all they go through and how overworked they are but mainly, I got joy from knowing that we (the Community Partners and Trainers) were teaching them a new way to interact with their families that could lead to kids being kept out of thet system as well as giving the skills, tools and power to the parents to help make that happen. It was a nice change from the pressures of FEELING like I have to maintain a certain superficial look when working in the health and fitness field and having my eating disorder kick into overdrive!
My dilemma however is this: their isn’t a lot – if any – of positions I can branch off into from being a Community Partner as this was a 5 year grant given to specific counties to see why Native American and African American kids STAY in the system so long and how we could correct that. Although I’ve had this experience that’s been outside of fitness, I still feel like my identity, who I am, is tied to me being ‘Trainerchick’. The fitness trainer for 12 years who has worked for clubs, a top notch college in the Athletics Dept. and who was able to have enough private clientele by referral from current club clients to be able to pay the bills strictly from that. Lots of pluses there, but do the negatives outweigh all those things? The eating disorder being kicked into hyper drive? Putting pressure on MYSELF to look a certain way and even when I reach that look, STILL not being satisfied? Yes, all these things are conundrums I’ve been pondering for going on 6 years now and I wish I could just find ME, start fresh and finally be happy.
I couldn’t think of a snappy title for this blog – especially one that is short and to the point. I often go through phases where I just think of off topic random subjects in my head and today was one of those days I was going through that phase. I started thinking about the few things on my body that I was not satisfied with and remembered how I’ve voiced these things to some of my friends. A lot of times their response tended to be in the realm of this is what I have so I need to accept it or this is what God gave me and I need to be happy with it and I’m definitely not arguing those points. I think those are good things. I’ve also come across articles revolving around self esteem and people not liking their physical appearance and the connection between those two. Now granted, I do think that body dysmorphia and low self esteem often times are connected but has society, the psychiatrist, therapist and all these experts ever considered that a self aware, well informed individual with a decent amount of self esteem can just maybe be unhappy with certain aspects of their body and that’s all there is to it?
I’m a fitness trainer by career and having been in the field since 1997 I’ve come across all kinds of shapes and sizes. And while it’s true that society tends to put more emphasis on certain kinds of body types by toting them as being more desirable, and therefore oftentimes putting women especially, in a mindset to compare themselves to these types and ultimately be more critical of their own. However my challenge to you is this: is it possible that a well-informed, self aware female with a decent level of self esteem that has been exposed to different body types, be able to not be too fond of certain things on her body based on the fact that she has seen other body types that may have the specific body part she prefers as opposed to hers, without being labeled as having some sort of mental disorder or negative “self” issues? and I’m not talking about taking it to the extreme of self loathing or self hatred. I’m basically talking about a healthy female mentally, emotionally and physically for the most part, being able to be okay with not being too fond of certain body parts without the pressure or fear that she’s going to be labeled or classified by society as having some sort of issue.
Yes I believe in working with what you have, attempting to do something about it the best way you can if you’re unhappy with it, and at the end of the day accepting you for you. But while society tries to fix those that dislike themselves with “self love” medicine, I believe that they are unintentionally creating a brand new monster for those that are already comfortable with themselves by not allowing the freedom to recognize that it’s okay to not be happy with certain things about your body as long as you understand that in the end, it’s what you have and most times you have the power to change it and it wont mean that you hate yourself.
Who am I? I thought I knew. Now I question it. My whole identity, who I am and who I’ve become have been tied up in that one title I’ve gone by for the past 15 years: Trainerchick. June 1997 is when I became a fitness trainer. I thought I had finally found my calling making a transition from a licensed cosmotologist doing hair and only making a difference superficially to actually doing something I felt really meant something. Not just to me but to other people and for those who didn’t know how important their health & fitness was, I was determined to be one of the dedicated fitness professionals that enlightened them!
Trainers are for the most part just like everyone else. Although we have that leg up on the general population when it comes to health & fitness knowledge, we can still suffer the same setbacks, lack of motivation, eating disorders etc. as anyone else. I’m a testament to ALL just mentioned! There’s been times when I’ve been burnt out from not just having so many clients but also from being tired of constantly feeling like I had to live up to the stereotype of what a trainer should “look like”. Not saying that those thoughts don’t cross my mind anymore because believe me, they do – especially when Im not feeling up to par, have put on 30 trillion pounds of fat and know that for whatever reason, justified, legit, or not – and feel unworthy of even telling people what I do for a living. I remember a couple years ago a friend of mine came from out of town to visit. A perfectly planned day way quickly overthrown when we drove up to Napa (the wine country) to spend a 1/2 day at the spa and while she went on to her 1.5 hour hot mud soak, I went into the room with the lady who was going to give me my 1.5 hour FULL BODY massage! Oh f**k! well, I can honestly say that yeah, I knew this was coming and somehow I made peace with the fact that this lady was going to be seeing me at one of my worst times but all that comfort seem to go right out the window when she asked that age old question, “so – what do you do for a living?”. Lady, why in the he’ll did you have to go there!! Not only did my self consciousness come back in full force, but I damn near O.D.’ed on feeling bad because here I am, being honest, telling her what my area of expertise was (and for how long since she just couldn’t seem to leave well enough alone) WHILE looking like a beached whale on her massage table! Maybe I’m overly critical. Maybe she didn’t see what I saw. Maybe she really could have cared less and had absolutely no opinion either way. I’ll never know so my only thought, obviously, is to make my thoughts, hers. My feelings, hers. My disgust, hers.
On a more positive note, I can honestly say that their did come a time, AFTER my eating disorder got out of control, AFTER I had been through some things and AFTER I surrounded myself with healthier people that I finally accepted the fact that I would never be thin, probably would never have the figure I was so determined to get at any cost (and actually did but was too caught up in not being satisfied that I never noticed although others did) and would most likely never fit those clothes I THOUGHT would look good on me. I accepted the reality that I’m not supermodel material but that I have an athletic physique. Lean muscle. Thinner toned upper body with very strong legs. I had to rethink and reprogram my thought processes in order to survive – not just from a health perspective but from a clientele perspective too. I got tired of just talking the talk and convincing myself I’m an exception to the rule. Truth is: I’m not. I knew my passion for health & fitness was slowly dying because of all the self inflicted stress I was bringing upon myself, both mentally, psychologically and physically. Believe me, eating 5 crackers and drinking 3 glasses of juice and/or cool aid a day while working out 3 times a day for at LEAST an hour every single day for 5 months straight AND taking at least 6-7 different KINDS of diet supplements is kinda sorta not the way to do things! Lol
Anyway, all this is said because over the years, with all my ups and downs, good times and bad, confusion and direction, discontentment and semi-satisfaction combined, I’m now left wondering at this late in the game if in fact it may be time to pursue other avenues. I feel like thats something that I need to do because let’s face it, regardless of my passion for H&F, is it doing ME more harm than good if I’m not ready to address it? I have two other interests: technology and psychology. I would love to pursue both of those but I always come back to the fact that I’m 41 and feeling like it’s too late to really be trying to start on a new career path. Do I have the energy, the patience and the genuine motivation to see it out? Is this really what I want and can I really do this and succeed? All these questions, second guessing and contemplations are what has kept me at a cross road for the last 5 years.
Today was one of those days where I “just wasnt feeling it”! Ever have one (or more, lol) of those? I’m the type of person that can be overruled by emotions sometimes – only when it comes to certain issues mind you – which is kind of ironic since most people tend to see me as someone that rarely gets excited about anything or tends to stay calm unless you’ve really pushed my buttons. In general though, I live my life by the “what’s done is done and if you can do something about it, then do it – if not, don’t waste negative energy on it” motto. Now going back to today and why I just wasn’t feeling it, which happens to be directly related to one of those “certain issues” I mentioned above. Let me start from the beginning – or at least close to it……
I’ve been in the fitness industry for 14 years now as a fitness trainer. I obviously have a passion for it because I’ve stuck to it this long and have even seen lots and lots of turnover in the gyms because of so-called “trainers” who got into this business for the wrong reasons. Now, 14 years ago would make me younger, thinner, way more athletic and even a little (lots, lol) more active. With it though also came, at that time, an unhealthy obsession with body image (perpetrated by the need to look a certain way because of the work environment I was in which ultimately led to my eating disorder going into hyperdrive), an imbalance between work and family (a ratio that looked something like this: family < work), and the overwhelming NEED to make sure I was burning three billion calories a day, seven days a week even if it meant ultimate injury! Well, I’d like to think that I’ve overcome all these things through growth over the years. I’ve learned to TRY not to be so hard on myself when I don’t feel like hiking those 14.5 miles at Mt Tam or doing those six hours at Pt Reyes like i used to do faithfully every weekend but instead accept that I’ve grown into a different, wiser person that now has the option of taking a mini two hour flat hike and enjoying it just as much as i would when and if I choose to do a more intense one. I’d like to think that I’m still working on accepting that im not going to nor do I HAVE to look like the person I used to look like 14 years ago and that I’m in the process of creating a new me. So now fast forwarding to today when all these negative feelings and thoughts reared its ugly head during Yoga class.
I had a wake up call. I practiced Yoga for a total of 3 years several years ago and although the moves are very familiar, even the technical names of the poses are ingrained in to my memory, today was a real challenge because I could hardly hold the pose for more than five seconds let alone without feeling a strain here or a discomfort there! Talk about discouragement. Well, one thing led to another….the strains and pose holding micro seconds led to frustration, frustration led to digust with the fact that I’ve let myself get to the point of such low strength and endurance and this led to me allowing my emotions to overrule everything I’ve fought so hard to keep in check these past years: feeling like an unworthy fitness professional who can talk the talk EXTREMELY WELL but obviously has stopped walking the walk and it ultimately led to me leaving Yoga the last 30 minutes of class IN TEARS! Yes, life happens but when it comes to health and fitness aren’t I suppose to have the upper hand because of my experience, knowledge and education? Shouldn’t I have been able to nip MY OWN health and fitness in the bud so that it didn’t get this bad? This is one of the imbalances ive struggled with the last 14 years and I guess today was a reminder that I need to reevaluate some things concerning this. For those 2.16 persons who have my blog site address and those 1.67 of them that actually bother to come and read it, I’d love it if you have any feedback you’d like to share! 🙂
This year I have written down a lot of goals. Most of them involve things that will help me be a better “me” on the inside and then theres the ones that will make me a more knowledgeable “me” such as things I want to learn but at the top of the list is the goal of surrounding myself with what I call like-minded people. In general, I’m what you call a loner. I have friends, but I prefer to be by myself most of the time however this year I’ve resolved to be more sociable and surround myself with people I have something in common with not just on an intellectual level but interests as well. I want to be around people who have goals and desires and aren’t just talking about them but actually getting up and aspiring towards them. Believe me, I know a lot of people right now who want this and want that, are going to do this, going to do that but it’s all talk! They don’t get off the couch or out the house or from in front of the computer long enough to make it happen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally not knocking being in front of the computer half your life since I’m a computer junky myself. Even I had to find balance between getting out of the house and breathing the closest thing to fresh air and sitting in front of my PC (or laying back with my laptop).
My point is, although their are many different types of people in the world and you’re going to interact with many that you don’t have anything in common with, you have a choice as to who you hang out with and this year I’ve chosen to find people that – and this may sound crazy – have common sense and use it, are half way intelligent (80% would be even better), have goals that contribute positively to their life in order to improve who they are and who genuinely have similar interests that I do. (I hate the ones that pretend to like something and it just happens to be something you like, but it’s all in the name of impressing you or thinking it makes them look better, grrrrr! Such a pathetic waste of mind energy!)
Anyway, in closing, I just want to make sure that I’m not coming across as thinking that a person shouldn’t have a variety of friends with different tastes, backgrounds, intellect, etc. That’s definitely what I’m NOT saying. I just believe that if a person is at a certain place in life, that they shouldn’t be weighed down by people who aren’t there yet and refuse to do anything to improve upon it.
As usual, it’s the wee hours of the morning and i still have the ‘on/off’ switch in the up position so I decided to practice my blogging. This is my first time doing a blog and is actually one of the things I wanted to start doing this year as an accomplishment, but I’ll wait until I get a little better at it before crossing it off my list!
I’m sort of at a crossroads in my life. I’ve been training for 14 years and I feel like I’ve put in my time as a fitness trainer. I feel like it’s time to move on to the next level but to what? I know that I communicate well and have often thought of going in the direction of teaching health and fitness seminars but I know I would miss that one on one interaction with people. I’ve already experienced what that’s like when I trained strictly private clientele in their homes. For several years, my goal was to be able to have a place for people to come where I offered Health and Fitness in a complete package – H & F for the mind, body and soul. Nobody knows better than me that achieving peak health and fitness is more than just working out your body but it’s also about getting your mind and emotions right during the process too. Each one affects the other and in major ways.
Although it feels like all my hopes, dreams, desires, and motivation all went down the drain in 2005 when my mother died, I’m slowly getting it back together. Emphasis on SLOWLY! lol! This is not something I’ve thought about, but more of a strong feeling: ever since i turned 40, three days ago, Ive had a different, more exciting outlook on life. I’m comfortable in my skin now – that’s not to say that I don’t still go through the typical female dislikes pertaining to certain things about myself, inside and out, but overall I’m glad I’m no longer expected to keep up with the latest fashion trends like the teenagers do – i can wear WHATEVER, HOWEVER, and people won’t criticize. Because I can reflect back and remember the days when my eating disorder was at its worst during the first years I started training I’ve now come to a place where I know I’ll never be thin, but rather when I’m at my best I have a rockin athletic physique. Because part of my journey still takes me on the road to higher education which means being back in school I can feel proud that although I haven’t reached my destination, I’m still intelligent, empathetic, a good communicator, loyal, and very giving.
All these things are what makes up me. Of course I left the not-so-flattering parts out but hey………bottom line, I feel good about WHO I am, maybe not WHERE I am in life but WHO I am and where I have the potential to go definitely outweigh not being thrilled about WHERE I currently am but that’s what’ll get me through 2011 with everything crossed off on my “goals” list by the end of this year! I’m optimistic!