I first stepped foot into a gym as a freshman in college. I took a few group fitness classes, did a few cardio sessions on the treadmill or elliptical yet never dared to step foot in the weight room. I saw an advertisement calling for more group fitness instructors. From the classes I took, I knew I could do it. So, I was hired as a freestyle instructor with very little training and taught a few classes a week for a couple of years. And looking back, my classes were ok but I didn’t really catch the fitness bug. Life got in the way…..studying, and the occasional partying. I ended up gaining 40lbs from when I stopped teaching classes in 2004 In 2007, I set a goal of losing that weight. And it wasn’t just “I want to lose weight.” The goal was “to lose the 40lbs I gained in college in 1 year.” My goal was SMART.
What is a SMART goal? The most important has to be the S, specific. If your goal isn’t specific enough, then how will you know if you’ve been successful. And that ties right into measurable. “Losing weight” isn’t specific or measurable. Attainable has to do with the size of your goal. If you’ve got a large goal, like loose 100lbs, break it down into smaller goals that don’t seem as daunting. “Lose 5 lbs in a month” is a great first goal. Or exercise at least 2x this week is another great smart goal. Relevant is kinda a no brainer. It’s got to be something you’re willing to work for. Time based puts you on a deadline. Makes you accountable to your goal. After all, a goal is a dream with a deadline.
My weight loss journey was successful because my goals were smart. But yet, I didn’t do it alone. Along with some friends from grad school, I joined Weight Watchers at Work. A program where the university would pay for half of my fees until my weight was within the healthy range according to BMI (body mass index). And out of all the diets and weight loss programs out there, Weight Watchers is the only one I will recommend as a dietitian. Why? Three reasons. First, the program is designed to actually teach you have to eat sensibly. You start by learning their system and learning what types of food help you lose weight. And eventually, changing your eating habits to a more well rounded pattern. Second, they set small attainable goals for you to tackle, one step, one pound at a time. Third, you have a system of support within the meetings or online community. It worked for me, but more on that in a later post.
Diet vs exercise? Again, that’s a post for another day. But I did both. And I’m an extremist so if I’m going to do something, I’m going to give my all to it. I absolutely fell in love with running during this part of my life. I lived for my runs no matter the weather, no matter what was going on in my day, I had to run. And you didn’t want to be around me if I couldn’t get the run in. I did some pretty crazy things to get it in. One time on a cold winter night, I actually slept in my running clothes so I couldn’t skip out on my run that morning. I created training logs, training programs and as the weight came off, magically, running became even easier and more fulfilling. I raced in the 2008 Go! St. Louis Half Marathon and was totally surprised to have placed 5th in my age group! So apparently, I was good at this running thing. Since then, I’ve raced 10 marathons, including 3 Boston Marathons, many halfs and a handful of shorter races. But every time I sign up for a race, I always have a goal and it’s usually a lofty time goal. And I don’t always make it, but that’s what gets me out of the door when a run doesn’t seem like the most appealing thing to do in that moment.
I did make it back to teaching group fitness. This time as a Les Mills instructor. Which, if you’re not familiar with it, please check it out. This company has fitness figured out. And it’s almost like a cult full of die hard fitness fanatics that I am proud to call myself a member of the tribe. But as a group fitness instructor, I see a lot of people everyday working hard to change their lives. People come in as first timers to the gym and have gone on to drastically change their life through fitness. And I’ve got to say, it’s the best part of my job. I live for the moments where a member tells me of their successes and I can’t help but take pride that I was allowed to be apart of it. A large part of my job is to provide the motivation people need to get through the tough parts of the workout and most importantly come back for more tomorrow, regardless of how sore they are. So I’ve had to come up with a library of motivational cues that, I hope, stick in my participants minds and allow them to push past limits they thought they couldn’t break. In the Les Mills world, we call this “Fitness Magic” and I strive to create those moments for my members.
I’ve been apart of many fitness magic moments amongst the classes I’ve taken and taught. It’s the moment where even though you’re sweating in class, you get goosebumps or almost been moved to tears (that’s happened in a few BodyFlow classes of mine). If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t I’ll try to explain what I mean.
The first one happened just recently in an RPM (cycle) class. I’m covering for a well-loved instructor that needs to rest his voice. He’s taught this time slot for 11 years and has quite the following of dedicated participants. Talk about about intimidating cycle shoes to fill! I had to bring my A game. During that first class, everything was going great, the energy in the room was high and the participants were working hard. This instructor I’m filling in for is there riding along with his participants. We get to a long fast paced hard sprint where I can tell people are reaching their limit. I say something like “look to your neighbor, they are your competition. BEAT them to the finish line.” And that instructor looks over to his neighbor and dumps his entire water bottle over her head. Now, I would NEVER do that to a participant, but he’s created such a great rapport, such a great community within his class, that he was comfortable doing that. I was blown away. It’s a moment I’ll always remember.
The second, was in a BodyPump class. It’s a total body weight lifting class set to music where we use light weights with high repetitions to create lean muscle. About 3/4 of the way through class, we work the legs in lunges and it’s usually not the most popular exercise because it’s tough. Bottom line, it hurts. So I know, I’ve got to throw out my best motivational cues here. I reminded my class that alot of the time we get caught up in the physical aspects of fitness. Smaller waist, butt, legs, toned arms etc. And we forget about the bigger picture. We really should be working out for a longer, fitter life. Achieving this goal so we can be around for a better more fulfilling life. Every workout counts towards this goal, make it count. I tend to use this cue alot because I know it hits home to why I workout.
“Don’t give up because you never know who you’re inspiring. For me, little eyes are watching. It’s important to set a good example for them.”
What’s your goal and motivation to be fit?