Since beginning my Journey to Strong last November, I’ve had so many women tell me that I’m an “inspiration.” I have certainly appreciated the support, but I’ve found it difficult to fully embrace the idea that I’ve inspired others to become fitter or stronger.
But, my friend Kristin’s daughter, Julia, gave me an amazing gift that I will forever treasure. She tapped me on the shoulder, halfway through dinner last night, and whispered in my ear.
“I saw you lifting weights on Instagram. I’m strong, too!”
I was filled with emotion. Sometimes it takes a child to remind us that:
we don’t need to be anything more than who we are to inspire others
it’s important to share the small and large victories present in everyday life
social media can be a force for good
AND, our daughters are watching!
Dear readers, venture out and do what you do best…and then share it!
Last week I learned to do a back squat. This was a new move for me and on the first try I lost my balance in the set-up and nearly knocked over my trainer! But three sets in, I had it down perfectly. I was impressed. Ninety-five pounds up….ninety five pounds down…I’m looking good in that mirror.
Did I say I was impressed with myself?! Nine months in and I’m amazed at what a 58-year-old woman can do when she sets her mind to it.
I’ve always considered myself to be an emotionally strong woman; now I’m physically strong, too. Let me just say that’s an amazing combination.
Imagine that you are a seventy-five year old woman who is regularly complimented on your obvious physical fitness and alluring shape by women decades younger than you! Imagine that you are a grandmother who can beat her fourteen year old grandson in a plank off…planks require great strength…planks are painfully difficult! Imagine that you inspire other women of all ages who walk through the door of Zone Fitness!
No imagination required…meet my friend Cindy. By a happy scheduling accident, one of my training days coincides with one of her training days. She was there on my first day of training and I was immediately in awe of her. I watched her push and pull and lift and press. I saw a mature woman in fantastic shape and I was inspired. I want to look like that, move like that, feel like that…I thought.
“I wouldn’t want to tangle with you!” I said after training alongside Cindy for a couple of weeks. “You are magnificently strong! I’d love to hear about your fitness journey.”
Cindy was happy to share her story with me. She remembers the moment, when at the age of 60, she realized that she was afraid to run. She was walking along one day when the thought came to her …it felt so good to run when I was young. That was her light-bulb moment and it yielded a thirty pound weight loss and a commitment to fitness that has endured for years. If you do the math, hate math, that’s about 1,500 training sessions. That happens when you focus and fall in love with fitness.
As she likes to say, “I never regret a training session!”
I must say that I agree with Cindy. We also believe that our old-out-of-shape selves would be completely shocked if someone told us that someday we’d look forward to spending time in the gym.
Cindy is one of several incredible women who train with Jonathan Hoskins. I’ll be sharing their stories with you in the weeks to come. I’m sure they will impress and, more importantly, motivate you as they do me.
Perhaps I’ve been a bit irritating up to this point?! Here she goes again you may be thinking : fitness is fun; fitness is empowering; fitness is a must! That’s been the truth of my experience, though, and I believe in keeping it real. So let me just say that I had my first WTF (please don’t make me spell these things out) moment this weekend. It was bound to happen.
Remember that happy photo of me at the pool wrapped in the towel? My lovely mood lasted until I got home and looked at the picture my husband had snapped of me in my bikini. My thighs are dimply…that’s the truth. And, it’s clear there’s another five pounds that needs to come off my midriff. It’s not fair, I thought, I’ve worked so hard for the past eight months! But, the simple truth is: I FEEL BETTER THAN I LOOK!
It didn’t take me long to accept that realization, though. I reflected on my first day at Zone Fitness when Jonathan asked me about my goals. “Firm thighs” were nowhere on the list. I’d taken a fall that had scared me straight. I came to get strong so that I wouldn’t stumble through old age! I didn’t even have a numeric weight loss goal. I just signed on the dotted line and fully committed myself to the journey.
I’ve seen amazing results in only eight months, but Jonathan was honest from the beginning.
“It’s going to take a year and a half to get there,” he told me.
“Nope, only a year,” I countered.
We’ll see. My weight seems to have plateaued, but my strength continues to grow. It’s really such a crazy thing to imagine that I could get up off the ground, hobble into Zone Fitness and eight months later, at 58 years old, have a bikini body. But, something seems to happen when you spend four days a week in a gym working out in an intense fashion. The thinking goes something like this: I feel like an athlete, so I should look like one!
I’ll continue to train for all the right reasons. Working out …
boosts my mood
improves the quality of my sleep
lowers my dementia and cancer risk
strengthens my bones
gives me energy and confidence
makes me feel proud and accomplished
And, I have NOT fallen since I started
On Monday morning, I happily returned to my routine following the holiday break. I’d adjusted my attitude and it felt good to be back at it! I’ll let you know (hell, I’ll probably shout it from the rooftop) if I ever get lean, toned thighs. But, I’m not focusing on that. I’m keeping my original “why” first and foremost in my mind. Here’s my mantra: Get strong, stay strong, enjoy the journey!
I had a moment today when suddenly, all at once, I could hear every negative (or at least not positive) comment that has been made about My Journey to Strong.
“Why would anyone want to spend 50 minutes burning 700 calories in the gym?”
“Aren’t you getting a bit carried away with this fitness thing?”
“Are you going to start wearing those ridiculously tiny bra tops and shorts?
“Aren’t you afraid you’re going to pack on too much muscle?”
“It’s hard to imagine you’re going to want to do this forever!”
When people make major, positive changes, it seems a natural consequence for some of those in their world to question the transformation. I do understand that simple psychology. The response, I think, is a mix of curiosity and envy. I’ve been there.
We ask ourselves how? How did she do it…get fit, write a book, learn to paint, start a business? But, we know the answer. She just made up her mind to do it and then she showed up….over and over and over again! How wonderful! That means that we all have the potential to do anything we set our minds to!
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
My trainer, pictured with me above, encourages me and challenges me, in addition to educating me about all things related to health and fitness. My daughter, who refers to me as a “beast,” reminds me regularly that she is very proud of me. And, my husband is very supportive of me. But, in the end, it is just as it was in the beginning; my desire, my commitment and my continued hard work are the key to my success.
Should you be curious, here are my answers to the five queries above:
My trainer ensures that I’m not doing too much or too little. I have the time and I love it!
Maybe…and, when I do, I’ll send you a photo!
No. Once again there’s my trainer. Plus, let me just say, Michelle Obama’s arms are a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to be that muscular.
It’s okay; I can imagine it!
So, when all I can hear are the voices of skeptics, I remind myself that I am fit, strong and confident. One might even suggest that I am a goddess and I would fight my natural impulse to demure and just own it! I am a goddess.
Are you letting your light shine, dear reader? I’d love to hear about your success in the gym, studio, kitchen, office, garden….
Who’d have thought that there was an athlete inside of me?! Not me! But, I can’t imagine going back now. How do I love strength training and cardio workouts? Let me count the ways:
I feel good.
I look good.
I haven’t fallen in six months.
I can confidently scale stone walls in search of my Winnie.
I feel strong, accomplished and proud.
I’m having fun!
I can not think of anything else I could do that would yield those kind of results. And, I can not think of one thing I don’t like about it. Truly. I’ve become addicted to doing the right thing for my body!
It seems that training has brought out the best parts of my nature. I’m extremely competitive and intense and strength training gives me the opportunity to constantly work to best myself. It’s easy to measure my progress in time, pounds and reps.
On my first day, I could barely last five minutes at level 1 on the arc; today I’m burning more than 600 calories in 50 minutes on level 5. In the beginning, my knee was sore and my ankle swollen and I couldn’t imagine ever getting beyond the movements I was doing on the psychical therapy table. Soon, I graduated to resistance bands and weight benches. I impressed myself a couple of weeks ago when I sat down at the leg press and pushed through twelve reps of 245 pounds (noisy knees and all)!
Some of my progress is quantifiable with hard numbers, but I’m just as excited about the progress that I’ve made in areas of my life that are not easily measured. I just feel more comfortable in my own body. I’ve worked to strengthen my legs and my knees are now better supported. I have less pain, despite the arthritis. All of this makes me feel more confident when I’m presented with stairs or hills. Would it be an exaggeration to say I feel younger? NO!
I know that I’m not younger, dear reader. But, I also know that I am stronger. And, I’ll tell you, I feel empowered. There’s another benefit of my time in the gym. I have the energy and confidence to take on other challenges in the future. It’s not over until it’s over!
Tonight, I’m congratulating myself on six months of hard work. I’m also happily anticipating a strenuous workout tomorrow morning and a return to my regular four days a week in the gym. (There’s been a break in my schedule due to the holiday and the birth of my trainer’s son. Congratulations Jonathan and Britney!)
Next up for me: deadlifts! I’ll let you know how that goes.
What’s your exercise regime? I’d love to hear from you.
In a rare photo-op today at Zone Fitness in Monterey, California, Wonder Woman and Superman appeared together. It seems Wonder Woman was under the impression that she, and only she, would be the focus of the shoot. But, Superman had other ideas.
“Wow, he just photo bombed her,” one young fan exclaimed!
“I’d expect that from the Flash,” said another.
Wonder Woman, however, was unperturbed and warmly introduced the Man of Steel as her “favorite Justice League colleague.”
“Ladies,” she said, “I am a singular wonder, but I’m also a good team player!”
The event included an impressive demonstration of crunches, curls and squats followed by the inspiring story of Wonder Woman’s pursuit of strength. Premier Protein shakes in banana (WW’s favorite) were served following the Q & A portion of the show.
Batman, upon hearing of Superman’s surprise appearance, reportedly announced he may be in the neighborhood the next time his female cohort appears. Stay tuned to this site for further updates.
P.S. If you’d like to feel like a superhero (or just dress like one), you can buy a WW t-shirt at Target!
You could say that I was “unbalanced” before I started working out. I’m not talking about the fact that walking, quite regularly, led to falling! I’m referring to “life balance”.
In the words of the incredibly bodacious Jennifer Lopez, “Beauty is only skin deep. I think what’s really important is finding a balance of mind, body and spirit.”
I’m a natural-born student. I love to learn and I love a challenge; my mind has always been a priority for me. I’m blessed to have a loving husband, an amazing daughter and generous friends. My outlook on life is positive and my faith is deep. Before I began training, I had two of Jennifer’s bases covered.
Since November, I’ve integrated the “body” component into my life. I’ve got a routine: Tuesday/Thursday for strength training, Monday/Wednesday/Saturday for cardio. I have a more balanced life and it feels good. My newly acquired bit of wisdom …well, you’ve heard it before, but, here it is again:
Exercise brings confidence and energy to your life!
Thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged me. I hear you: I’m sticking with it!
OMG, I knew so little the day I walked through the door at Zone Fitness! During my first meeting with my personal trainer, Jonathan, we discussed the importance of both cardio (fitness slang for cardiovascular activity) and weight training. I told him that I was intimidated by weights.
“But, I like cardio,” I offered. “In fact, I exercise four days a week and count my steps!”
I learned very quickly, though, that my idea of cardio was not the same as Jonathan’s. I discovered that I fell far short of meeting the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association and by extension my doctor. Intensity matters! It only counts as cardio when you elevate your heart rate into an aerobic zone, which is 55 to 85 percent of your maximum. Any movement is good, but I was really short-changing myself. I was not working or sweating enough to achieve my weight loss goals or maintain my health.
Real cardio is hard. The machine I’m sitting on in the picture above is a Cybex arc. I’d never given one a go and, let’s just say, the first time was an experience. I felt like I was going to die after 5 minutes, but I needed to make friends with that machine because it’s designed to be easier on the joints than an elliptical and burn 16% more calories than a treadmill.
I’m proud to say that I can now burn 400 calories in a 35 minute workout on the arc. Getting there required me to trust my trainer. I’d constantly joke that I hoped picking me up after my heart attack was included in my dues. But, honestly, I was scared. I had to learn that I couldn’t/shouldn’t jump off the machine when my inner monologue changed from…you can do this, Michele to …this feels horrible, Tom will kill me if I die in the gym, I don’t know if I can continue, I hate this blanking machine!
Jonathan identified this highly unpleasant feeling: metabolic pain. (I’ll let you google that for the scientific explanation.) I only needed to know that it wasn’t a sign that I was going to die, but instead a sign that I was getting a good work out. We monitored my heart rate and Jonathan checked in frequently to ensure that I was expending the correct amount of energy.
“How are you doing?” he’d ask me. In those moments, I wasn’t sure I liked him. My inner monologue went something like this…Can’t you tell by the look on my face?, Didn’t you notice that drop of sweat that just fell to the floor by your foot? Can’t you think of a better question? I later learned that Jonathan was administering the “talk test.” (You should be working so hard that you can’t carry on a conversation, but easy enough that you can contribute short sentences.)
After the first week of cardio training, it did get easier for me to keep pushing. I know what to expect. I can sense what my heart rate is before I check my reading. In short, I know my body better. Cardio has become a three-day a week activity, but I’m not saying it’s easy. Just when I’ve got my workout nailed, my trainer tweaks the settings! That brings me to my third bit of newly acquired wisdom on My Journey to Strong:
You only improve your fitness when you challenge your body.
I’m a visual person and this seems to be how I decide what I want to invest my energy in. Last January I pictured myself blogging in my pink shed. By March, I was writing to you!
This year I pictured a stronger me; I never thought I’d say that. I’m lifting weights; I never thought I’d do that! And, I’m making progress!
When I hobbled in to meet my personal trainer, I was nine pounds heavier with a swollen, blue ankle. Jonathan was supportive and instructive. He was careful to reinforce the correct position for every exercise so that I would not experience a “gym injury” of any kind. After all, I confessed that I am an extremely experienced and talented klutz. My friends asked if I felt that he was pushing me to my max, and I had to respond negatively….until.
I made a quick trip over to see my daughter who is an active college student. Her routine includes Boot Camp in the Park every Sunday. How could I say no?! The trainer modified some of the activities to take into account my weak ankle, but I pulled my weight…figuratively and literally! I felt so proud of myself that I sent a photo to my trainer.
Oops! I returned home to an amped up routine.
“Ack, you don’t feel sorry for me anymore, do you?!” I asked Jonathan.
“Nope, think I saw you dragging a weighted tire through the park!” he answered.
When, way back when, I was in high school, kids divided themselves up into four groups: jocks, brains, socials and stoners. I fell into the “brains” group. I’ve always felt most comfortable pursuing intellectual goals. My recent foray into the gym has not been easy and so I feel that much more pride in my commitment and effort. I am getting stronger! I love that. This brings me to my second bit of newly acquired wisdom on My Journey to Strong: