When I Believe, I Can: My Journey to Physical Fitness and More

BlogHer Original Post

When you tell The Universe what you want, she will move heaven and earth to bring you what you need.

I believe this. It's one of the few statements of faith that I hold firmly onto. In late September, 2006, I aimed intention at The Universe when I, exhausted, unhappy and overweight, said : I need to find a trainer and get myself in shape! I had spent a brutal three weeks in the Midwest moving my mother-in-law into assisted living. Stress and poor diet had added an extra 8 pounds that I didn't need. I was achey, I was aging, I was miserable, but I was flying home.

The Universe heard.

As I walked in the door, I flipped on the television from habit. The first words to greet me were: Get 6 sessions with a personal trainer when you join 24 Hour Fitness as part of our Biggest Loser Special. It struck me like a punch. I didn't want to join that place; I wanted something different... what exactly, I couldn't explain or define. Something more unusual; something less "gym-ey".  I wasn't happy that The Universe was telling me: forget what you imagine. Get yourself to this gym.

I went. I signed up. The sales consultant found a young guy he thought would be great for me. This trainer, we shall call him Guido, slouched into the chair opposite me, smiled charmingly, and set up an appointment for the next week. I was dubious.

Our first workout was the longest half-hour of my life! I was sore, (sore!!) for two days after a half-hour workout. We moved slowly through those first short sessions. I would feel frustrated and mis-understood; he would sigh or laugh at my excuses and patiently try to get me in the program. I was starting to feel a little less ragged, though, so I signed up for more sessions when the first 6 were over.

Workouts weren't getting easier and without a formal appointment, I didn't often make it to the gym. However, I beginning to get more comfortable with my trainer and share a bit with him.

"I'm a klutz." I said.
"We can work on that." he answer.
"No. Really. I have always been uncoordinated and awkward."
"Yes. Really. We can work on that. Let's do it right now!"

The exercise involves stepping up on a platform on one foot, balancing, then doing a military press with light weights. Yeah. I tried and unbalanced. Tried. Unbalanced. Tried. Unbalanced again. My body was wobbly, my mind felt buzzy, I could barely concentrate. I kept on thinking: I CAN'T DO THIS. Guido finally forcefully said: I know you think you can't, but I know can! And we are staying here until you do! Something clicked. Maybe it was exhaustion, but I think it was wisdom finally showing up. I took a deep breath and decided, just this once, to believe Guido instead myself. I cranked out all the required moves without a slip-up as long I focused on his belief in me instead of my own unbelief in myself.

It changed everything.

I came to really understand that I was my biggest roadblock. If I could believe, I could do. At first, I depended heavily on Guido's positive belief in me. Over time I was able to begin believing in myself. This is the greatest secret of this entire year. I can do anything if I truly believe. How often we've heard this, but I had seldom let myself experience it. Now I had experiences that not only showed me this truth but also let me practice doing this simple, complicated thing.

My workouts grew to three times a week: once or twice with my trainer and the other times by myself. As time allowed, I'd also come in up to 2 days for some additional cardio (yes, from hating the gym to going 5 days a week. Who was this woman?) I was losing 1.5# a week. By March, I hit the half-way point toward my goal, and rewarded myself with new jeans. From size 12 to size 8! Weight loss slowed after that, but as the workouts continued, my confidence grew.  I headed to BlogHer Con 30 pounds lighter than the previous October. Those who were there witnessed my confident glow.

When I returned, I admitted to Guido what he means to me: He is my corner man. You know that man in the boxing ring that cheers the fighter on, spots his flaws, fixes his scrapes, and is the fighter's biggest supporter? That's Guido! I believe that in the best trainer/client situations, there will always be a similar relationship. He was touched to near speechlessness when I explained this to him, but he has taken his role very seriously.

I haven't made it easy for him.

That same day I told him that when our training contract ran out, I was taking 3 months off from working with him. I even convinced him to give me his blessings when I explained my purpose. For the next couple months our training focused on perfect form to keep me safe and uninjured.  How did I convince him?

I had goals I couldn't achieve while working with a trainer:

1. Make 3-4 appointments a week with myself to work out and honor them.
2. Plan a hard workout and hold myself to it. No more "I'm bored with this." or "I hate doing crunches" and relying on Guido to make me do them. I had to do some mental strength work too.
3. Shake things up a bit. Take some classes, maybe work out with a friend. Stretch my workout wings a little.

In October I started this phase. I was scared at first but I talked myself beyond that:

I think (and it's only a think at this point), that what I really want to do is try to insure that I'm working out when Guido isn't there. Really be on my own. Because I know he'll be lurking in the background making sure I'm not screwing up, but not wanting to do so either. Not that I haven't done workouts on my own before; and I've ignored Guido's presence in the gym while doing those.

But today is that FIRST. That first time being responsible. That pattern-setting, success-making time. (jeez, can I put more pressure on myself for just one workout? It's only a work out, gal!) And I need to break the habit of thinking that he's involved in this workout thing.

My whole mood changed while I was exfoliating. I desperately want to work out my biceps and triceps. Scrubbing my thighs, I want to work those quads and hamstrings too. But I really, really, really, really want to work those biceps. I'm even wearing a sleeveless tank in bright white to show them off. Arms: they're the older woman's equivalent of the great rack when you're in your 20s. Except I never had that rack!  Saggy boobs can only be fixed by surgery; flabby arms are under my control.

Screw anything else! I'm off to the gym!

Since that first pep talk, I successfully made it in whenever gym appeared on my schedule.  I (mostly) did the workouts that I planned to do.  I learned a lot about myself in doing so.  The most surprising:

This fitness thing is still not a part of my "normal" lifestyle, yet! I still have to think about going to the gym.  If I did not go for 2 weeks, I could possibly stop altogether. This shocks me every time I realize it.

Today I'm talking with my trainer about what we will accomplish in a new set of workouts. I have so much I still need to learn:  how to change my workouts so I don't get bored; how to become more flexible; how to become balanced.  Guido, I'm certain, has his own plans for pushing my physical limits; we'll work a plan out together to get me where I want to grow. Now that I believe in myself, I know I can do whatever we plan.

Debra Roby blogs her workout thoughts every week as a Tale of the Scale at Deb's Daily Distractions and normally blogs at Blogher about all things crafty and garden-ey.


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