By Tara Daye, PTS/FIS
Yes, I work at a gym. Yes, I’m a Personal Trainer. Yes, I have won metals and trophies for my overall aesthetic look. BUT — Does that mean I don’t know what it’s like to hate your own body? Have I never struggled with my weight, been self-conscious, been depressed, anxious and suicidal? Does this present “me” mean that my past “me” has never wished for change and didn’t know how to go about it? Well, we all start somewhere and, let me tell you, I didn’t always look, feel or present myself as I do now! Far from it!
Having just competed in two back-to-back Physique Competitions and coming home with three first place and three second place standings made me reflect on where I had started. People often see what is directly in front of them and proceed to judge with only that information alone. Some days, it really feels as if I am judged more often and more harshly as a fit woman as opposed to when I was slightly overweight. Either way, we all have felt judged at some point during our lives; we all have felt inadequate at some time, or unhappy with something about ourselves. No matter your current age, sex, ability or fitness level, each person at some point during our existence will experience self-doubt to some degree.
That girl in the first picture was very self-conscious, experiencing post-partum depression, anxiety, and would self-shame – all despite wearing a bikini in public. I would spend hours on the couch, have emotional outbursts at the silliest of things, hate that I had to be on medication for depression, was embarrassed because of my situation, and struggled to be a good mom through all the fog. At that point in time, I had never set foot in a gym, had never been involved in sports or team activities – ever, knew something had to be done for my physical and more importantly, mental health, but didn’t know where to start.
I began by joining a gym. Not knowing much about fitness at the time, I received an orientation to help me get going. The only instruction I had was a quick ½ hour demonstration given by a staff member. I fiddled around for the first couple of months getting used to the equipment but still felt too shy to be in there and didn’t like putting myself into a situation where I felt like all those around me knew what they were doing to achieve their goals, were confident and comfortable with the machines, the weights and themselves. I would even go as far as not wanting to workout beside someone that in my mind I had deemed to be “fit” for the fear of looking inexperienced, unfit, and clumsy and so on.
What kept me going through all those fears was the desire to get off my anti-depressant medication, and, through research, I knew that exercise could help. I also held on to the fact that I didn’t get out of shape overnight and knew it would take just as much or more time to achieve the results that I wanted. So, I kept plugging away. I attended a couple of group fitness classes and found them to be uplifting and educational which prompted me to change my routine and gave me a little more confidence. I found what worked for me. Over a period of many months, I began to really love working out and found it gave me an outlet and increased confidence. I was able to stop taking the anti-depressant medication and felt like I had found myself again.
Being a person who likes research and learning, I proceeded to take canfitpro’s Fitness Instructor Specialist course and Personal Training Specialist course to take my new-found love for fitness to the next level. I then knew I wanted to give others the opportunity to experience the benefits that being physically active could bring to them just as I they had for me.
Over the next 10+ years, I strived to increase my fitness level and strength, become more educated and knowledgeable, I began to feel and look healthier and happier by bringing more balance to all aspects of my life, and to instill these ideals in others. During this time, I have discovered a few truths that stand the test of time and may help anyone who is struggling with balancing their life, fitness, mental health, eating habits, or simply facing any challenge.
1. Anything worth having has to be worked for – there is no easy way. More pride comes with harder efforts.
2. We are human – everyone will struggle from time to time, make mistakes, fall off the wagon and fight to get back on and that is OK!
3. Give yourself permission – allow yourself to have a cheat day, rest day, take time for yourself, your family and/or friends, and to slip up on occasion with no self-punishment, pity or anger.
4. Pick your battles – we all have a choice of where to focus our efforts. Decide what is most important and worthwhile fighting for and let the little worries go; don’t stress over things we can’t change.
5. Trust the procedure – no big change can happen overnight; make a small worthwhile change that lasts before adding another hurdle. Trust you are on your way and the process will get you there eventually.
6. Learning is continual – everything evolves so seek out and use new knowledge as power to fuel your efforts.
Remember, we all start somewhere and have a vision of where we would like to be. Even once we reach a set goal, more often than not, we have a new one all laid out. Some people struggle to achieve happiness more than others, so never judge. Instead, be open and honest with your struggles; it only makes us more human, more approachable and may help someone else with a problem that they are experiencing. No matter the goal, strive for balance and success not perfection!