The dedication required to become an athlete can be rather egregious if diligent maintenance hasn't been adhered to. Many will strive for excellence in a particular sport throughout their elementary education and some into college. But what happens next? Most will give it up once they've run their course at the college level, and within a few years, they see where lack of consistency and self-motivation in exercise coupled with poor nutrition have crept up on them, and they may try to regain some aspects of their youthful body back by going in the gym and doing some of the warm-ups their coach gave them years before.
Though there is nothing wrong with playing catch up, and we all start somewhere, what if we could never allow ourselves to go back to that place? That place where we feel unhappy, unhealthy, and defeated. If we are driven enough, we can successfully ward off those unwanted pounds, gain muscle, eat clean, and work toward a healthier body every step of the way.
For many, determination has come and gone with seasons of life, waxing and waning through hard times and good times. Ultimately, the goal is to stay strong year-round, while still growing consistently. But, what can happen is that we can let life dictate whether we push ourselves harder or slack off and go back to bed and hit snooze, or go have coffee with a friend instead of a date with the weights. So, how do we post-high school or post-college athletes stay on track to continue to grow, be successful, healthy and flourish in these bodies that are only going to continue to age?
One way is to lean on others. Whether it be their motivational pictures on social media, their statuses or posts about food or workouts, having a friend or spouse go to the gym with us, hiring someone to train us, and/or having a meal plan made specifically for us. All of these things are powerful tools that help make us out best, that help us power through when we don't want to, or give us the wisdom to allow ourselves to rest when we are fighting a cold. When we are humble enough to admit we need someone else's guidance, we are confident in our growth.
I first stepped foot into a gym--Gold's Gym to be exact--in mid-2006. Initially, I felt paralyzed by the machines, men grunting, women running like there was a grizzly beast behind them, and trainers having their clients do the craziest things. It was new. Before that moment all I knew was dance: leotards, tights, ballet flats, pointe shoes with silicone inserts, jazz shoes, leg warmers... This gym experience baffled me. I got a trainer, but due to my terror, she went easy on me with the exercises. (This also could have been because it was 4:30 AM.) But, eventually, after six weeks or so, I wanted more. I wanted to do what the guys were doing, and what one woman in her late 40s did: I wanted to lift weights and build muscle.
The desire to grow and change didn't go away, but I didn't get the correct info or tools for a bit longer. In late-2008, I saw an image of a bronzed, lovely woman, strong and her suit sparkled flexing on a stage as a guest poser. I had no idea what that meant, or why it was happening, but I wanted to be like her. It was then that I met a trainer who could see my drive, and in about 6 months, I gained 10 pounds and lost 9% body fat.
I did that show the traditional way, unfortunately, and ended up with a myriad of health issues the following months. It was then that I switched to a plant-based diet and began to heal from the inside out. During those months of being ill and fighting to stay afloat, I lost most of my muscle and was grateful to work out 3 times a week.
So, what does all of this have to do with determination? Without determination I would probably still be ill or worse, I would not be where I am today, undoubtedly. I heavily relied on fitness and muscle magazines and images online of other women who were stronger than I'd ever been, women who destroyed the lies that lifting weights wasn't feminine--whatever that even really means. There were many days where I felt defeated, deflated, and damaged beyond repair, I didn't think I could make it, I didn't know if I wanted to. I did, and still do.
My personality is one that doesn't take "no" for an answer; I go hard after what I believe in, what I want. I say these things just because I've seen so many blogs and pictures lately about girls/women who have terrible misconceptions of themselves, and others who are terrified to start (because frankly, without guidance, where DO you start?). I say this because not everyone has the confidence to keep going when they fail, to ignore their imperfections and move forward. There are far too many females who are picking themselves apart for flaws no one else sees, meanwhile other females dream of having a body like theirs. So, not only do we need to verbally support one another and respect where we all are on our own journeys, we also must stay humble despite our growth to see where we can modify and improve and be open and honest with one another in order to continue growing.
My training program has been designed by Tiffany Burich. I know she expects me to do what she sends me, and when I don't I feel terrible. It's imperative for my goals to have someone I respect be my accountability. Dani Taylor has given me a meal plan as I am building muscle. When I don't stay within the guidelines she set, I cannot expect results. I personally NEED these women (and others) at this point in my life. Though my growth and improvement is not solely dependent upon how much I lift and what I eat, and instead on a balance of those things, I also must maintain a good attitude, consistent work, and reasonable expectations.
Here are my top five tips for physical success:
1) Eat clean. If you don't know what that means, or you aren't seeing results, hire someone who knows what they're doing. It's worth it.
2) Train smart, consistently, and with purpose. If you don't know how to do exercises, ask a friend, hire a trainer, or do a lot of research. Whatever you do, remember: form over quantity. Posture & correct form are crucial.
3) Sleep. I don't need to say anything more.
4) Drink water. That whole "8 glasses a day" thing is fine, but it might be easier to think of it this way instead: Drink half of your body weight in ounces (i.e. if you weigh 180 pounds, drink 90 oz. of water per day).
5) Rest day and cheat meal. Don't skip these. If we only eat super restricted meals and never take a day off from the gym, out bodies will retaliate. Just take a day off.
It's pretty simple in the grand scheme of things, right? Okay, so it's not simple, but you CAN do it. Just remember that wherever you are is good, and it's okay to need assistance, input, & motivation from others as inspiration.