I didn’t choose this life …. It kind of chose me.
I always thought I would be a lawyer. (Remember the TV show “Street Legal”? I wanted to be Cynthia Dale’s character, so edgy and strong and well dressed.) I was the child of a single mom. I hated the inequities she had to endure. I wanted to be an international human rights lawyer; I wanted to save the world. My initial plan was to use training to pay for university. Have you ever heard that line “man plans, and God laughs”? I am not religious but I love that line because in my experience it is SO true. Life is inherently unpredictable—that is what makes it both fun and frustrating.
Anyway, let me start from the beginning. I did not grow up dreaming of being a trainer. For the first half of my life, I hated my body. I hated being in my own skin. If I could have divorced myself from my body I would have.
I was an inactive and awkward adolescent. I was taller and larger than everyone—including all the boys. I hated my body and had only microscopic levels of self-esteem. I would do anything to get out of gym class. I often cried or faked being sick in an attempt to get to go home. I snuck food. I used to tell my mom I wanted to walk home from school to get fresh air when, really, I just wanted to stop and buy fries at the chip wagon. Not my proudest moments.
When I was about 16, my mom got me a membership to the YMCA and my entire life changed. Becoming active emboldened me, it helped me feel empowered and energized. As I said above, when I started working as a trainer it was really just a way to make some extra money to help me through school. I thought I would do kinesiology in my undergrad and then go to law school. When I finished undergrad, I wasn’t ready to give up the “fitness life,” so I did a year of Pilates training, thinking, “Next year, law.” At the end of my year of Pilates training it hit me: “I like this world!” So, I decided to ditch law and do a master’s in exercise science. I realized I wanted to help others find that “grrrrr” feeling that comes with feeling strong and alive!
My life truly did begin to change when my mom bought me that membership. The experience was really the nascence of the cornerstone of my fitness philosophy and the premise behind my first book, Finding Your Fit. “You have to frame daily motion as a non-negotiable and know that how you are active is up to you. Match your health plan to your personality and life realities,” I say in the book. My mom chose a membership to the YMCA because it matched my personality and my life realities. How? I hated being active with my peers, but the demographic at the YMCA was mostly people under 5 and over 40, so I felt comfortable enough to at least go and walk on the treadmill.
Walking snowballed into weights and running, which snowballed into exercise classes, which snowballed into teaching fitness classes, which snowballed into part-time personal training, which snowballed into full-time personal training and a desire to make health and wellness a life passion and career.
Since joining the YMCA at age 16 I have not really stopped learning and “leaning in” to fitness. I am a voracious learner. In addition to my master’s of science, I am a nutrition and life coach and hold several certifications, including Level 3 CHEK Practitioner, Pilates equipment specialist, fascial stretch therapist, GLA:D practitioner, and ELDOA Level 2 instructor.
I love my job. I feel so grateful. I get to work with such amazing people every day! I have a studio in downtown Toronto. I work with everyone from athletes to people recovering from hip and knee replacements to people living with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Currently, I see people over Zoom, which was a transition. I miss seeing people in person, but I love the convenience of Zoom and how it connects people. Some of my clients have relocated (to Nova Scotia, Chicago, Washington, etc.), and through Zoom, I get to continue to work with them. Plus, families and friends can train together. For example, I have a client here in Toronto who “Zooms in” her mother and brother in Montreal. Very cool!
The moral of my story is, you don’t have to be born loving fitness to be active, and you don’t have to know where your story will end to start living!
Just START! The only moment you have control over is THIS MOMENT!
ACT. Act yourself into the person you want to be!
Want to feel fit? Go for a walk. Want to feel strong? Lift some weights. Want to feel courageous? Do something courageous! Want to feel more confident at a given skill? Practice the skill!
Then…rinse and repeat tomorrow.
Yes, some days I wake up feeling motivated to move my body, but more often than not I move because I know I will feel better BY moving. I have learned through years of practice that I have to ACT my way into the feelings I want vs letting my emotions of the moment dictate my actions. When I feel lethargic, doing nothing feeds the lethargy. Inactivity begets more inactivity. When I feel lethargic and I make myself move my body, I feel better.
As I tell my clients, “the worse your mood the more important the workout. Movement creates energy and positive affect.”
Forward is forward. Breathe. Just keep going!