Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lessons Learned

When I started this blog 7 years ago, life was much different. I was a mom to 2 little girls, a Beachbody coach and just starting out on my journey into all things strength. I hadn't yet discovered what it felt like to move some serious metal, or that being fit and healthy didn't have to come with so much pain and suffering.

Flash forward to 2018... I sit at my computer with 4(!) kids running around the house now. There are no more 2 hour gym sessions, and even no more gym--I've set up a home gym in the basement because time is so much shorter now. I can get in a solid 45 minute workout at home while baby #4 sleeps and save myself some time and money on a gym membership (more on the benefits of working out at home at a later date).

The last 7 years have not been without some valuable lessons.

Fitness isn't one-size fits all.  I have gone through many fitness phases and jumped on many fitness bandwagons in my lifetime--I'm not afraid to admit that... now, at least. When I first started this blog I was working as a coach for Beachbody, the parent company behind P90X, Insanity and Shakeology. When I say working, I was really paying them money so I could hock their products. At the time, I had had a lot of success using their fitness programs and supplements. I did not have a lot of success telling people that they, too needed these products in their lives. I also got to a point where I could only do so much jumping before I wanted to just punch someone in the face, namely Shaun T (the personality behind Insanity).

What am I getting at here? Then I thought Beachbody was the answer for everyone. It worked for me; it could work for everyone else, if they just coughed up the cash. But fitness isn't about buying a product. Its about adopting a lifestyle. Just like every person is different, so, too should be their approach to health and fitness. Now, my personal approach to fitness is about balance--several days of weight-lifting, lots of walking in good weather, some yoga, trying to eat healthy most of the time, wine and chocolate daily--just to insure I stay sane.

Fitness shouldn't be about quantity, it should be about quality. Maybe when you get to a certain level, quantity becomes important. But when you're talking about a regular person, just looking to get healthy, putting in quality workouts is way more important, at least to me. Back in the day, I would go to the gym and lift weights for an hour, then take an hour long spinning class. I would do that 3 days a week. On the other days, I would put in an hour of weights, then do 45-60 minutes of Insanity later in the day. I would also run anywhere from 5 to 10 miles on at least one weekend day. Maybe I would rest one day.

Working out every day of the week isn't that bad, but I was pushing it way to hard. I was often tired. I was ravenous. And eventually I ended up injured and had to quit running (not really the worst thing). I remember often being miserable. Pursuing your fitness goals shouldn't make you miserable. They should make you feel satisfied and empowered, not dreading the next workout.

Being strong is awesome. When I first started out in fitness in my early twenties, I thought the key to being "in shape" was to do as many reps and sets as possible, as often as possible. I would take and teach back to back circuit training and kickboxing classes. I would use lots of 8, 10 and 12 pound weights.

After my first 2 kids were born, I got crazy into getting lean, lean, lean. Lots of weights, lots of cardio, lots of pain and suffering, I looked good, but damn it, I did not feel good. My hormones were out of whack. I was tired all the time. And I was a bitch. It was somewhere in this time frame that I discovered strength sports. I learned how to deadlift, and I was good at it. I did a powerlifting meet and then a Strongman partner contest with a good friend. I was getting strong and it was AWESOME. I stopped worrying so much about how I looked, but more about how I felt and what I could do.

You are greater than the sum of your parts. Not to be getting all philosophical on you, but really... you are not just as good as your fastest 5k time or your heaviest bench press. Your value is not determined by the number on the scale or the size of your jeans. You are not defined by your level of fitness, unless of course you are a fitness athlete and your livelihood depends upon you being the fittest you can be.

Fitness is a very relative concept, and its taken me a long time to realize this. When I worked as a fitness instructor, it was hard not to measure my worth against other instructors or the really fit few I saw in the gym day and and day out. I spent several days in Los Angeles training under Billy Blanks. The Billy Blanks... creator of Tae Bo. And if you've ever seen the Tae Bo infomercials or done one of the workout tapes, you will know what his followers looked like. Not easy shoes to fill.

Today I've let a lot of the superficial aspects of fitness go. Sure, I care about how I look and would love to be slimmer. But these things are way less important than the amount of weight I can lift, how honed my technique is, and whether or not I am enjoying myself (hint: I am enjoying myself all the time). I have learned to become a much more well-rounded strength athlete (I'll call myself an athlete for lack of a better word).

I'm sure I've learned a lot more over the last 7 years than what I've written above, but these are just the most important lessons that first come to mind. I know I'm not exactly where I'd like to be on my fitness journey... 150 pounds, 350 pound deadlift, 7 minute mile, blah, blah, blah... but at least I'm happy and healthy. And I'm once again enjoying the pursuit of health and fitness.

Fitness... its a journey, not a destination. Thanks, Emerson.