About five years ago, as I was going through a difficult personal time (separation from a husband of 10+ years and suddenly alone with five young children including an infant), I realized that I had to do something other than what I' believed I'd been "called" to do. Up to this point, being a stay-at-home mom was such a blessing and I found no greater earthly joy than the joy of being a mom and a wife. Like so many other women in my predicament, I realized that my vision of what my future (and that of my children) was shattered and I needed to find direction in the midst of the chaos. I needed to find a new vision that suited me.
It took some time to figure out what I could do professionally after so many years being home with the children. Thankfully, a friend saw that personal training was something that I'd not only enjoy-but something that I could be good at. At times, I'd look across the gym where I was exercising and think to myself, "Those trainers have AMAZING physiques. I couldn't compete with that. I may look okay for someone whose had five children, but these people have elite physiques." All the while, I was motivating and encouraging this great friend (lets call her Colleen). Colleen was starting to lose weight and I merely saw myself as a friend to her-not a contributing factor to her weight loss. She saw it differently! Before meeting me, she'd never touched a weight in her life and was unsure exactly what she should do. Not only had she not ever used an eliptical trainer, she'd also never heard of one. I was certain that she needed to start working with weights to lose the weight and keep it off. And she did! It wasn't just Colleen who was trusting me with her fitness, my other friends and family were starting to call on me too. Before long, my family who used to call to ask my ex for gym and nutrition advice started calling to ask me. "Gretchen, what do you eat?" "Gretchen, I'm thinking of joining the gym where I live, do you think I should..." "Gretchen, I don't think I can do it. I'm so busy and tired. I know you're busy with all those kids. How do you do it?" "Gretchen, I'm at the grocery store. What kinds of foods do you think I should get?"
There it was. Clarification! People not only wanted to get fit, but they trusted me with guidance. Now, I knew that I needed to get educated so that I wouldn't steer people in the wrong direction. Reading and researching every thing I could get my hands on was top priority. And then, I focused on getting a great certification so that I could launch a successful career based not only on my passion for health and fitness, but also on education and good information. I chose to become certified through NSPA (National Strength Professionals Association) because of the hands-on approach and the many continued education opportunities available. Although there are a few other great certifications out there, I wasn't comfortable just reading some books and study materials and then taking a test. I wanted classroom instruction and hands-on training.
By this point in time, a few years had passed and I was engaged to be married to an amazing man. I was starting my career in fitness at a local fitness club. Excited about the opportunity to work in an atmosphere which was all about fitness (or so I thought), I was anxious to start changing lives. Within a very short period of time, it became evident to me that many in this profession-other health and fitness professionals-were more concerned with acquiring an aesthetically Barbie/Ken like appearance than they were about true health and fitness. Regularly, I was hearing about this person or that person (often these were other personal trainers) having injections, liposuction, body lifts, etc. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the choice to have cosmetic procedures, but I was quickly saddened and oft times angered by the foucs on faux aesthetic perfection over exercise and health.
Having my own fair share of insecurities regarding my body, I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable in that atmosphere. I also was concerned that my personal training clients were feeling the same way I was. Eventually a few of them started to voice their discomfort about that atmosphere. Before I knew it, I was starting to complain about this "flaw" or that "flaw" on my own body-sometimes even in front of my clients. One whom I'd befriended said, "Gretchen, I love working with you. You're a good trainer and a beautiful woman, but you're starting to sound like "them." That was all I needed to hear to realize that this environment was not good for me or for anyone that I wanted to work with.
Before long, other "gym drama" of which I'm thankful to not have been a part of, motivated me to just leave the gym and to fully and independently build my "own thing". Boy what a crazy, exciting, fun ride it has been! I joined another local gym (Fitness First in Frederick-see Karl Noyes if you're interested) which allows trainers to train members as long as both are members of Fitness First. I also invested in exercise equipment that I could easily take with me to people's homes.
Here I am now, two years after leaving that first gym and I couldn't be more excited about what I do! As a personal trainer, and now as a golf conditioning specialist I've had the blessing of motivating many people to change their lives for the better. There is very little that can compare to the excitement I get when a woman finally loses those last stubborn ten or fifteen pounds, or when a man says "I'm off of my blood pressure medication and the doctor says it's because of the exercising I'm doing now," or when a mom says, "He couldn't run half a mile with all that weight he was carrying and now he's running two," or a bride says, "You should have seen how great I looked in my dress. I felt like a princess," or a father says, "After I had that heart attack, I knew I had to do something and I'm glad you were the one who helped me do it."
Of course, I'm human and I'm a woman; so, it's easy to get caught up into having the occasional "I feel fat" day, but doing what I do has made me think a little less about aesthetics and a little more about what matters on the inside.
This has been a great, oft times crazy journey. Sometimes, a dark place (in my case it was a divorce and a period of time being single with my five little ones) can be the valley we need to walk through to get to that place where you can say, "Ahhhhhh. This is nice!" My "Ahhhhhh, this is nice" place is this career which allows me to devote my time doing something that I believe in.