Why I Train
Quick: What do you think about when you hear “exercise?”
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess some of your answers might be:
This is actually pretty sad to me because I fear this is what a lot of people think about exercise and I wish it weren't the case.
When I think of exercise, here’s what comes to mind (I’m totally free styling here):
Must be nice, Sarah! Well you’re a d*** personal trainer, of course the first thing you put was “fun”! *angry emoji*
But you know what, I didn’t always think this about exercise. In fact, my high school gym class list probably looked like this:
mortifying (especially volleyball, God, I hated volleyball)
sweaty (thank goodness, I had that class the last hour of the day - I always felt sorry for the poor souls who had it first hour with that whole “drowned rat” look all day)
lonely (I had zero friends in my class second semester)
rule-based (we actually took tests on the rules of golf, which we practiced in a gym - I never could understand this logic)
height-discriminatory (5’3 1/2” will never make you a rock-star on the basketball court, just saying)
How I felt in gym class, circa 1996-1997
Nowhere on this list was anything about the joy of using the body I’ve been blessed with and learning how good it can feel to achieve something new or just move your limbs the way they were meant to be moved. Nowhere did I have a chance to experience building my love of movement, my strength, or my core - unless you count doing a bunch of Army-style sit-up with someone kneeling on my feet. In fact, this was one of only three activities I was actually *okay* at (the other two, in case you’re curious, were badminton - don’t laugh - and the mile run). Oddly enough, I came in third in my class on the mile and my gym teacher NEVER ONCE encouraged me to try out for track or cross country (if I sound bitter, I still am). ;)
In other words, I freaking hated it. My entire middle school career I spent figuring out how to get out of gym (hello, office aid and counselor aid!) and I certainly was only doing the bare minimum requirement once I got to high school (one hellish year of freshman gym). I hadn’t even learned to swim without water wings or ride a bike without training wheels until I was eight - nothing about me said “athletic” and I knew it.
Complete disclosure: If future Sarah would have said, “One day, you will be a personal trainer and exercise for a living…and you’ll love it!” I would have laughed in your face. Besides a brief stint in figure skating, there was nothing about formal “exercise” I enjoyed.
But then something happened: my mom had some Richard Simmons “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” VHS tapes (I know, I’m dating myself on both references). I tried putting these on and you know what? Those tapes were pretty fun and I kinda liked it! I started doing them more often, not because I needed to lose weight, but because they were FUN! Why wouldn’t I do something that was fun?
Yep, I was doing this!
Then I was like, you know what, I am going to go run outside. I went and ran around the track at my old middle school. And it wasn’t so bad. Sure my lungs burned a little at times, but it was kinda cool. Then in college, my roommate was a former cross country runner. She suggested we go to the rec center and we lifted some weights (i.e., did some biceps curls) and went on the treadmill. After I graduated, I saw an informercial for Mari Windsor Pilates and I bought the set. It was fun and man, did my core work! I also started going country line dancing, thanks to a bachelorette party I attended. This was, to this day, one of the greatest forms of exercise I ever did. I would dance for 4-6 hours straight with a great group of people - hardly boring gym class, if you ask me!
Line dancing at Hart Plaza, circa 2009
This got me interested in some Zumba classes with my mom. Again, it hardly felt like exercise! And it was certainly nothing like the mortifying volleyball nightmare from ninth grade. It was like a dance party! And something strange happened, I started to see myself as “an exerciser.” In fact, I was pretty damn good at it. I was coordinated, had decent rhythm, and picked up the steps pretty quickly. I could also keep up in the class really well as my endurance got better and better. I also began to look more “toned.” I was, dare I say, a tiny bit “athletic!”
In fact, I loved it so much that I wanted to teach exercise myself. Fast forward six months later, I got my group exercise instructor certification, then a year later, my personal trainer certification. From there, my love for exercise has grown more and more. As I started to see myself as more athletic, I started feeling okay to try new things - spin, barre, a Pilates certification, a sports conditioning course, jumping rope, boxing, even a degree in kinesiology (i.e., exercise science). Back in ninth grade, I would have never felt like I could “hang” with these people and I certainly never would have considered a degree in this field while in my undergrad. But opening myself up to trying a new class and realizing, I didn’t die and I didn’t totally embarrass myself let me realize, I can do this again. This is okay. And the more I practiced and the more I tried, the better I got. I may be an exercise “late bloomer,” just like I was with my water wings and training wheels, but I’m okay with this. I’d rather be a late-bloomer than a non-bloomer.
So, to answer my very first question - Why do I train? - let me tell you:
I train because I can. I train because I didn’t used to feel like I was good enough to train. I train because I want to be better. I train because I am fortunate enough to have four limbs that work. I train because maybe I’ll be blessed enough to live to 100 and I damn well want to walk at my party. I train because, when you get used to sweating and the occasional soreness, it’s pretty darn fun and it certainly makes the rest of your life a heck of a lot easier. I train because I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t.
Find something you like. Start small. Do it again. I can almost guarantee you will learn to love to train, too.
In good health,