Growing up, I was always on the chubby side — “stocky” as a teacher once described me, probably thinking that he was paying me a compliment. Though I stayed pretty active through gymnastics and cheerleading, I had pretty bad eating habits (and no concept of what it meant to actually have a healthy diet), and I remained a little overweight (or on a good day, just on the cusp of being overweight) for most of my middle and high school years.
I started seriously gaining weight as a high school senior after the cheerleading season was over — no more regular physical activity! — and when I went to college, it was a big downhill slide. Other than walking to get to classes, I didn’t get any exercise. Living on my own for the first time in my life, I ate nothing but a steady diet of greasy food from the campus grill right next to my dorm.
From what I remember — and I very rarely stepped on a scale back then because I was ashamed of the number — I topped out right at 200 pounds — a full 50 pounds heavier than my average weight in high school.
After a rough freshman year, I did finally decide that I needed to get active again and I joined a small campus gym located in the basement of my dorm. I went regularly, and for the next few years, I lost/gained weight on an endless roller coaster loop. Though I managed to get in some moderate physical activity on a regular basis, my eating habits were still so terrible that I couldn’t make any sustainable headway on the pounds I’d gained.
I graduated college in 2004 and worked a temp job for a few months. Since I no longer had cheap access to a gym, I stopped exercising. I continued to eat the same unhealthy foods I’d eaten all through college.
Then, that fall, I had a revelation — at 22 years old, I was supposed to be in the prime of my life — but if this was my prime, how much worse was it going to get?
I was angry at myself for essentially mistreating my body. I wanted to wear cute clothes. I wanted to make it through a day without needing a nap. I wanted to be able to run a mile. All of these seemed like impossible tasks at the time. But I’d reached that breaking point where I was determined to change myself, no matter how hard it seemed.
Shortly after getting hired at a full-time job with benefits AND a gym discount — yay! — I joined the local Gold’s Gym. At the same time, inspired by my mother’s success in the program, I decided to enter myself into the HMR Program through the University of Kentucky — a hardcore medically-supervised weight loss program that was far more extreme than anything I’d ever done. It was a cold-turkey reset of my poor eating habits and a real eye-opener in terms of what I should really be eating every day.
The program required an insane amount of discipline and was a completely humbling experience. How can you complain about being 50 pounds overweight when sitting next to you in class is a man who weighs 700 pounds and would desperately love to be in your place? Those classes were also where I first really understood how helpful it is to work towards health and fitness goals as part of a group.
Fast-forward to June 2005 — six months after starting HMR. I had lost 60 pounds and was feeling great. I bought cute clothes! I didn’t need daily naps anymore! I could run not one mile, but three! Life was good. Now — how to keep up that momentum?
That’s where group fitness came in. I was always one of those gymgoers who quietly came in, put in my 45 minutes on an elliptical/treadmill/stairclimber, and left without ever speaking to anyone else there. But as I got more fit, I found that working out on the machines became easier. I didn’t feel like I was challenging myself enough. So one day, I gathered my courage and went to a kickboxing class.
I felt comfortable trying kickboxing because I had religiously done Kathy Smith’s Kickboxing DVD throughout college — I knew my jab from my hook, and my roundhouse from my side push kick. What I didn’t expect was how challenging the live class was. I remember standing in the very back of the room, sucking down water every chance I got, and mopping my endlessly sweaty face and body with a towel.
I loved it — and from there, my journey toward becoming a Group X instructor began. I started taking every type of format to see what else I enjoyed. I worked my way from the back of the room to the very front and center — and when the class director noticed me there without fail every night, she finally stopped me and said, “Have you ever considered teaching?”
So here I am! I love teaching because I want to give my participants the type of fun, motivating workout that kept me coming back for me when I was just a member. I’m certified in a variety of formats and I’m always looking for new things to learn, although TRX modalities have become my true passion.
While physical fitness will always have its go-to stable of exercises that are effective for nearly everyone, I believe that exercise should never get stagnant. Challenge yourself. Try something new. Keep confusing your body to encourage it to adapt and grow. You will love the changes you see — I promise!