Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I have a dynamic guest blogger today - and some of my SU alum may know her well. She's a force to be reckoned with, and her post inspired me to the point of wanting to share with you all. Please show some love :-)
Stop Talking About It and Just Be About It...My Journey to Fitness
by Loree Johnson
Days have passed since I stepped on stage for the very first time and I continue to struggle to capture what this experience has been like for me. I look at my competition photos and do a double take. I ask myself repeatedly "Is that really me?" It might seem like a silly (cliché-ish) question to ask oneself, but it's true.
I have always prided myself on being an intellectual, and therefore I felt a little embarrassed to share my decision to compete. Would people think I'm too vain? But this competition was never about vanity for me.
My journey toward competition has been long and varied. My journey to fitness did not begin with a desire to compete. Over the years, I gained weight, lost weight, and gained weight again. I valued being physically fit, however I never fully understood the proper balance between nutrition and exercise to achieve my goal. Like most women, I have also had a long and complicated relationship with my body, which centered around that number on the scale.
For many years, I was on autopilot. My twenties and early thirties were devoted to completing my education and establishing my career. I completed a doctoral program in Marriage and Family Therapy. I became licensed in two states. I launched a private practice with two thriving office locations by the age of 36. I was driven (and still am).
My career as a professional who helps others has always been rewarding. I delight in my clients' successes and in knowing I played some part in inspiring and supporting them in achieving their personal and/or professional goals. However, along the way of helping other, I lost sight of myself. I lost my focus on eating properly and I neglected exercising, especially as the challenges of maintaining a work/life balance became a daily reality. I sought more comfort in eating instead of physical activity. Even as I talked about the importance of balance with my clients, I struggled in my own right.
After watching a dear friend compete for the first time at the age of 40, I decided to stop talking about changing my body and my nutrition and decided to actually start doing something about it. Many competitors, who offered words of encouragement along the way, noted how I was about to embark on a journey in which I would learn a lot about myself. I kept asking myself, "What did they mean?" I had already gone through so many hurdles in life that had tested my strength and fortitude. Surely a little training would not be any more of a challenge than what I had already endured. I could not have been more wrong. I woke up at 5am for four straight months to hit the gym for at least two hours before heading into the office for a ten hour day (not including my commute). I was exhausted as I sat and listened to my clients as they recounted their personal struggles. At times I became frustrated because of my own fatigue. But through all of this, I remained determined.
During my training there were times I felt like crying and there were times when I actually wiped away a few tears, but I still pushed myself to finish my workout. I could be upset (or mad, sad, insert any feeling here), but I had to be upset while doing what I needed to nurture me. I was tired, cranky, and wanted to give up, but I refused, which is symbolic of how I live my life. I may get discouraged and a little derailed, but I always get back on track. There's something invigorating about challenging your body, thinking that you can't push any further yet harnessing a little more strength from deep within - taking yourself to the limit to find out what you're really made of.
I also looked to other competitors in the field for support and inspiration, such as Earnestine Shepherd, a woman who discovered bodybuilding in her 50's and Teresa Anthony, a professional figure competitor, who works as a contractor for NASA. These women personify strength and muscularity with style and grace. I was also fortunate to work with two individuals who guided me at different points along my competition journey: my nutritionist, Dr. Philip Goglia, and my posing coach, Nancy Georges. Their experience, insight and encouragement were invaluable.
Most importantly, I looked to one person whose support was priceless - my partner, Michael. Through the early morning training sessions (yes, he trained right along with me), the adventures of changing meal plans from week to week, and the ups and downs of life, he offered words of encouragement and reminded me of the commitment I made to myself.
Through this process, I connected with the strength that I had lost sight of and I stayed connected to the commitment I made to myself, which I had often sabotaged in the past. Stepping on stage was the culmination of my following through on that commitment. It was rewarding to finally stop talking about it and just be about it.