The Gift of: Your (Beautiful) Body Story

I wrote this blog post about 6 months ago. I thought it would be worth sharing again, especially for newbies to the blog:

A wise person once said: You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

In light of my occupation as a personal trainer and bodybuilder, I started to take a second look at the entire fitness industry in light of this statement.

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was something a wise person once said recently (actually it’s the same wise person I just mentioned. I can’t help it, I love wise people.)

I tend to agree that there is an almost universal negative attitude towards our bodies.

I’ve spoken to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.” I’ve noticed 2 types of people:

The Hater

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We devalue our bodies and think ourselves unworthy.

The Lover

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off, becoming completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies (and we know there are plenty of those).  We also become very frustrated by anyone who isn’t like us. We don’t understand how they just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But there’s some good news, kind of.

Perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

The Love/Haters

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. That certainly changes things doesn’t it?

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples, since this is a difficult concept:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, I’ve seen this same doctor light up a cigarette outside the office and I see a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. That doctor is lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.


 

So how do we use our body to tell the truth, specifically with regards to health and fitness?

 

It starts with honesty with ourselves. It’s EASY to lie to others. “Oh yeah, I’ve been sticking with my diet and my training. I’ll be ready for that 5k in a few weeks, no problem!”

Meanwhile, you know you’ve cheated on your diet, eaten ll the wrong things, splurged on junk food, and haven’t gotten a run in because you still haven’t bought a good pair of running shoes (or whatever the case may be).  But no one else knows that! So there’s no one to tell the truth to, except yourself.

If we can be honest with ourselves, by speaking the truth, by admitting our faults and our screw-ups, even if it’s in a journal or out loud to ourselves, it’s one step towards telling the truth with our bodies.

It starts when we stop thinking of our bodies as these “things” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. What a sad way to view ourselves. And we wonder why people are SO interested in the quick-fix diet schemes?


 

We need to re-frame our thinking to understand that our body is exactly who we are. It’s not something to be mocked, abused, degraded and devalued at the expense of others or in the name of vanity and pride. And certainly not the in the name of fitness.

Start telling your story with honesty. If we start there, it might become easier to view OTHERS in a more respectful way, not just ourselves.

If you are telling a story every minute of the day with your body…

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

The Gift of: Healing the Inside

While attending a Young Adult retreat recently I met a woman (I actually should refer to her as a “young lady” since I found out she’s 14 years younger than me) who mentioned her past life as a Crossfit athlete. Her and I bonded over the fact that we both have had a similar “departure” from the fitness world due in large part to the vanity that seems to accompany many of the wanna-be athletes who frequent the gyms these days.

This isn’t a knock on CrossFit by the way (although I do tend to enjoy giving them a hard time now and then). And it’s clearly not a knock on anyone who goes to the gym considering I am one of those people.

I mention this because I find it interesting to read stories of athletes and bodybuilders who didn’t get burn out per se, but they came to the realization that working out constantly and obsessing over their PR’s and what they ate and how much weight they pulled, pressed and pushed, or all their races they ran – none of it truly satisfied them. They thought they would find happiness at the finish line or after they crossed the stage and received a trophy or left the gym a sweaty mess.

They have since found that none of that really matters as much to them anymore.

The Thrill is Gone

I know I was super excited after I did my competition. I couldn’t wait to get in the gym and “bulk up” and hit some PR’s and lift some heavy weight and make progress.

It was fun for a long time. You could even say I made the gym my sanctuary.

But something isn’t quite right when even my independent, solitary-loving self felt like I spent more time in the gym and writing in my workout log than I did writing emails to friends or spent time with my family and friends. And I wasn’t even one of the “worst cases.” I have read and known many folks who became gym addicts and their relationships suffered.

What I find most interesting is that we can become addicted to something inherently good. Like an infatuation.

This desire to be strong, be fit and be a good athlete usually starts out all good. (Or, in some cases and I would actually say MOST, we give up after awhile or we get distracted by other life events and neglect our health).

But sometimes, and I would argue this is happening more and more, especially with social media – this desire to be healthy becomes an unhealthy desire for glory and praise.

You “Look” Amazing!

For me personally, it felt awkward to receive compliments from people. So many times my friends or even random strangers would comment on my blog or to my face, “You look fantastic!!! I want to look like that!” when referring to my before and after pics (I’ve taken them down, so don’t bother looking for them).

Why couldn’t I even accept a compliment of praise? For me, I felt like it was like people were congratulating me on how I looked and my appearance and it felt…vain. Fake. Like, “Why are you praising my body for looking this way?” I know this sounds strange and selfish and whiny – Who wouldn’t want to receive a compliment like that? But the keyword was “look.” I couldn’t get past that word. And to be complimented on my appearance was something I was not used to considering I never looked like that way ever before.

Of course I said thank you, I’m not rude. But still, it felt really strange and it was a feeling I couldn’t shake.

So imagine what it felt like when those compliments stopped after the competition.  I was bulking and trying to put on weight. I was somewhat relieved to not receive any more of them because then the pressure was off! But of course, looking in the mirror told a different story.

I cannot even begin to tell you the mind games the that went through my head. And I considered myself to have a good relationship with food and decent body image of myself.  Imagine what a professional figure competitor or bikini competitor goes through when he/she rebounds and gains a ton of weight too quickly! And we wonder why there are heartbreaking stories of these (mostly) women who can’t see their value anymore other than a body designed to win trophies or look good in photos. The bingeing and the dieting becomes obsessive and their health and metabolism is shot. And they take YEARS to re-cover.  Granted, this is a worse-case scenario but I assure you, the bodybuilding world is full of them.

Prioritize the Inner Self

I think the lesson learned is that we should keep our bodies healthy and in shape the best way we know how and dedicate a good amount of time to doing so. Perhaps invest in a Personal Trainer? 😉

But when the time spent in the gym or measuring our food or taking selfies (please don’t, just don’t) takes up the majority of our days, that’s when pride and vanity enter and that’s when I would suggest you take a big step back and re-asses your priorities.

I will tell you from experience, when outward appearance takes over your life, it does more harm internally than you realize at the time. And no one will tell you this – it’s something you will discover on your own.

My advice is to focus on mental and spiritual health before anything else. The physical stuff is easy to dedicate time to once you have the internal priorities set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only The Strong Will Survive

This past month I’ve been thinking a lot about strength. And my lack of it.

How it would frustrate me if I didn’t hit a big number on my lifts and set a new personal record, especially after weeks of training.

“I’m such a weakling.”

So back to the rack I go and try again.

Still, nothing momentous would occur. Proper form, great execution but no big amount of weight moved. Same with the following week.

“Why can’t I just be STRONG!?”

Then another week goes by and I try again. And STILL nothing major. I’m still pulling (or pressing) the same amount of weight.

“What’s the use?”

And then I thought, “What’s the point of even trying?”

But the story doesn’t end there. I go back and have gone back and tried and tried and tried again. It got me thinking though: This “weakness” mindset. I thought how if I let that little voice have it’s way, I would not have gone back. I could have given up and assumed this whole strength training/bodybuilding/weightlifting stuff is for the strong. And there is no place for the weak in that world.

Luckily, that didn’t happen because weightlifting IS a huge part of my life and one that I would like to never give up on. But what about those who have no desire to lift, no desire to be strong, no desire to even work up a sweat?

They would have given up. They would have assumed only the strong will survive anyways so might as well never bother. This is too hard, too difficult, impossible.

When you THINK and BELIEVE you are destined to be WEAK, destined to fail,  you start to think that you are inherently useless.  I’ve seen this a lot lately – People think because they are getting older, they can’t possibly hire a personal trainer because they aren’t young enough. And forget going to the gym “That’s for the young folks! That’s for the athletes! That’s for the people who have willpower!”

Or they have so many physical ailments that no amount of activity will do any good. So why bother? They resort to thinking, “If I can’t even work up a sweat, it won’t produce results.”

Or they aren’t smart enough to come up with a good workout plan on their own. So why bother at all? It’s easier to just go on the elliptical for 15 minutes and call it a day.

But here’s the bit that no one ever talks about:

Just because you aren’t producing anything, doesn’t mean you are useless.

We don’t have to constantly be moving and thinking and writing and working in order to be useful. We can be just as productive and get stronger in our mind, body and spirit by being still. Being quiet. Being silent.

I think the mind can play some tricks on you if you let it. I see, now, why my clients in the past would have a physical or mental setback and just quit on me. Even if they had a number of sessions left, they allowed outside circumstances affect them to the point that they just quit.

  • Perhaps it was financial – “I lost my job, I have to save some money before I come back to the gym”
  • Perhaps it was unsupportive family/spouse – “My husband thinks of this as a hobby for me and we should try and spend more time working/being with each other.”
  • Or a moment of weakness -“I cheated on my diet so badly, there’s no way I’ll get this weight off in time for my trip!”

Even if none of those clients came back, wouldn’t it have been great if they used this time to become stronger in other ways?

Stronger in their knowledge base in order to get a new/better job.

Stronger in their marriage/relationships

Stronger in their diet mindset.

The take home message: It’s okay to be weak! 

After all, if we have no weakness, how can we possibly grow in our strengths?

Mentally/Spiritually/Socially I have a lot of weaknesses. But for the sake of this post and speaking directly to my physical weakness, it’s my upper body. I’ve never had a strong back. But you know, after many years, its finally gotten stronger. I can pinpoint the moment I FELT stronger and GOT stronger – It was when I finally stopped and envisioned this muscle doing it’s job. I imagined and pictured it contracting and releasing. The next time I went to pull the weight, I didn’t rush it. I went slowly and methodically and it FELT different – I had finally FOUND my muscles! And I wouldn’t have found them if I hadn’t focused on resting and waiting and being still in that moment.

So here’s to leading with our weaknesses!

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

An Alarm(ing) Diet Tip

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So I’ve been utilizing my latest tip for about a year now and I feel like a brat for keeping it all to myself and not sharing it with my awesome readers.

It’s pretty simple actually and it’s really not anything mind blowing. But the few people I mentioned it to responded with, “Wow, that’s a REALLY good tip!”

Color me surprised, I finally thought of something worthwhile to share! So here it is:

I set several alarms on my phone via an app called “Alarmed.” It’s free to download and it works pretty easily. You just set an alarm to go off either daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly. You could use it for Birthdays, Anniversaries, Pay your Bills, Write for the blog, Make that doctor appointment, etc.

I used to use it for these things until one day I decided to start setting reminders about my diet. This was at a point when I felt like I had lost control over my cravings and had to take steps to at least TRY to combat them.

So I set this app to alarm me at several times throughout the day when I would be most likely to binge or cheat with phrases like:

“Don’t cheat on your diet tonight.” – Reminded me that my cravings could be controlled.

“You’re making great progress, keep going.” – Reminded me that I wanted to be consistent in order to see results.

“Remember how fortunate you are that have food to eat…” – Reminded me how blessed I am and how plenty of people don’t have enough to eat.

“Be an example to your clients and your fitness family.” – Reminded me that my fitness family includes my readers, my blog readers, my social media followers, etc not JUST my clients.

Some are faith based and could be my own personal mantra/prayer or sometimes it’s a scripture passage but regardless of anyone’s beliefs, I think we can all agree that we only get ONE body in this life right? 🙂 So, with that being stated, I have used some of these “alarms” as well:

“Your body is a temple, don’t destroy it with junk.” – And not just junk food but junk tv shows, junk music, junk movies, junk social media, etc.

“God, not food, is who is in control of me.” – For my non-believer readers, you can adjust this to say something like “Food does not control me, I am in control.”

“Pursue holiness in all you do.” – Self explanatory but could also be interpreted as “Pursue good and avoid evil.”

“Untwist in me what is twisted.” – I stole this from author Christopher West. Technically you could call it a prayer but when used with a diet mindset, you’re asking that all those negative thoughts that are twisted up inside your mind telling you how you’re going to fail, that this is too hard, that you’ll never lose this weight, you’ll never achieve success and untwists those to reveal the truth. Don’t believe the lies of the scale, don’t believe the lies that the media portrays about beauty and fitness, untwist what is twisted and get yourself set up to succeed.

I hope this little tip was helpful. I use it everyday and most days, it works for me. Some days I admit, I ignore the alarm and I “snooze” through it. But that’s okay! I just move on and start fresh before that next alarm goes off.

-Michelle

When The Fire Dies Out, Find a New Campsite

So it’s 13 weeks until my next figure competition and I am completely unmotivated to do anything about it.

Workout-wise, I’m doing well. No big problems there.

Diet-wise? That’s another story.

I’m not quite sure where the motivation and energy and fire went, but it is long gone and I can’t seem to get it back. I tried logging my food, thinking the accountability of my clients and random friends on My Fitness Pal checking in might help. It has helped a bit, but I’m still not all in.

I’ve tried going to my favorite fitness competitor’s websites and checking out their progress pics. That sorta worked but it didn’t seem to illicit any feelings of “YEAH!!! LET’S DO THIS!”

I’ve tried reading my old blog posts from when I first trained two years ago. Nostalgia, right? Eh…I just ended up critiquing my writing style in some of them. 😉

I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly why I cannot seem to take this goal seriously like I did the first time.  I came to a few conclusions as to why this time around I am not as enthused about it:

  • This isn’t the first time. Now that I know what to expect, I’m not EXCITED as much as I’m DREADING it because I’m thinking of all the negative aspects of competing instead of the positive ones.
  • I’m.busier than before. I have several social events coming up in the next two months including a wedding across the country, a week long retreat in Pennsylvania, and a class reunion in less than a month.  I want to look forward to attending and instead I’m  sitting here thinking “How can I fit a cooler on to a plane?” and “I wonder if I can fit in a workout before the rehearsal dinner?”
  • I’m distracted. I’ve been reading a lot of books on religion and Catholic doctrine and Christianity and although I’ve ALWAYS known that there is more to life than 6pack abs, I can’t seem to find a balance between living the “fit life” and exercising my mind as well. Granted I’m reading other books too but I also want to travel and hang out with my family and friends and sometimes I think training prevents me from doing this.
  • My family won’t be able to attend the show. I will have a large audience of friends in support of me there at the show but as soon as I found out the majority of my immediate family couldn’t make it, I  felt like maybe this wasn’t meant to be. It’s super important to me that they be there and if they aren’t, I won’t take it as seriously as I should.

I’ve talked to my trainer/friend/co-worker Chris about this the other day and we agreed that if I am not into this, let’s not push it. BUT, this doesn’t get me off the hook. He suggested I find something that DOES spark that fire in me that I could shoot for. In other words, as the title of this post suggests, FIND a NEW goal because this competition just ain’t cutting it.

So, with that said, I discussed the possibility of sticking to the plan of training and attempting to diet and just training to look great for summer! The wedding that I’m in takes place in mid-July. I went to try on the dress and order it today. I tried on a size 6 and although it fit, it was a tad snug. So, there’s my motivation!

I’m not about to SQUEEZE into a dress in the sweltering July heat for my friends wedding and look like I barely fit into this dress. Granted, no one looks at the bridesmaids at weddings, all eyes will be on her. 🙂 But, it’s motivating me to take things more seriously.

And, the best part is, if by some chance I happen to look pretty good and feel pretty good at the wedding, there will still be a month left to prep for the competition, if I choose to do it.

If not, I will take my own advice and book a photo shoot, the one that I wanted to do LAST summer but didn’t because I got lazy and didn’t want to diet. Hmm….I’m sensing a pattern with myself.

Either way, I have found new motivation: July 18th is the wedding for my friend. Progress pics will be taken next week.

Let’s Do This!!

The Distorted Perception of Weight Loss

Let’s go back in time to July of 2013. This is what I looked like:

July 22 2013
July 22 2013

It was 9 weeks before the competition. So I was probably 112lbs.

But I recall a specific moment from this timeframe:

I recall telling my sister (and only my sister as I wouldn’t dare say it to clients or friends) the following statement:

“Everyone looks huge to me. Big. Everyone. The people I see on the tv. The models and celebrities in magazines and on the cover. Everyone on my Facebook feed. Everyone…looks…huge.”

It wasn’t so much that I felt and looked small – It was that everyone got fat. Everyone.

I remember looking at a swimsuit model and thinking, “Poor thing…she’s too big to be in that suit.”

I went to the grocery store and looked at people in line and thought, “Poor thing…she’s too big to be buying those chips and cookies.”

I went to the gym and thought, “Poor people walking the treadmill…they must be exhausted carrying all that weight.”

Just let that sink in for awhile. Me. A Personal Trainer. Thinking everyone I looked at was huge. Ginormous. BIG.

How is that normal? How is that acceptable to think that way? I was completely distorted. Why? Probably because every time I looked in the mirror, I was getting SMALLER. I was getting so lean, that it seemed like everyone else was gaining weight by comparison. AND because people kept telling me, “You’re so small! You look great! You’ve lost so much weight, oh my gosh, you look so small!”

Although people were trying to give me compliments, they were reinforcing my thought that, Yes, I am small. This is a good thing.

As I got bigger after the competition, that feeling and perception went away. And my perception returned to “normal.” THANK GOODNESS.

It was quite possibly one of the strangest and startling things that happened to me during that period of time.

Now, that I’m building again, I am well aware of potential setbacks and feelings having gone through this before. I’m feeling much more prepared and confident. I don’t think you can fully prepare yourself for what is reflected in the mirror staring back at you once you start to change your physique (on purpose or by accident). It’s startling to see yourself in a particular way (I’m so much bigger than I was! I’m so much smaller than I was! I’m way more muscular than I have ever been!) and hopefully it’s a positive experience.

But this is the part where I point out that double standard: Society says we can’t tell someone that they look too big or too fat or too muscular but we are completely allowed to tell someone they are too skinny or too lean or too small. As if telling someone they are TOO much of something based on their appearance is EVER a good thing. No. Not even when you’re complimenting them, it really isn’t.

Because although that person you’re trying to compliment might not be training for a competition, I’m trying to give you an idea of what goes through the mind of someone who is dieting or training or struggling with their journey since they, too, might have a body distortion issue.

Instead of attaching a size to a comment, can we change the dialogue to start saying things like:

“Hey there good lookin!”

“That dress you have on is a great color on you.”

“You’re looking well today.”

Is there a reason we have to tell someone how they look and give it a size?

“You look great, have you lost weight?” – What if someone just looks great because they’re in a good mood that day?

“You look great, have you been eating more? You were looking too small last time I saw you. Glad you put on some size.”  – Because your opinion matters, yes.

“You look great, what size are you now? A 3 or a 4? That’s awesome! How big were you? Like a 12?? Wow!” – So now that I’m smaller, am I a better person now? Wasn’t I okay at a size 12?

Let me give an example that just happened to me:

I was told I was looking “really small” by another female who really had no idea I’m trying to bulk up. I wasn’t insulted. She thought she was complimenting me! (It’s not very common for women to WANT to get bigger). I know this. But even though I know this, guess what I did about 20 minutes later?

I downed a bag of chocolate covered almonds because…ya know, “Gotta eat to grow, bro.”

I had the idea in my head that “I’m small. That’s not good. I need to get bigger, therefore, gotta eat more.”

It was actually kind of funny at the time, and I like to think I have a mostly POSITIVE body image, but what if I was a binge and purger? What if I had a really bad history of yo-yo dieting or poor self image? And what if she had said “You look kinda small” in a way that made me second guess her intentions?

“What did she mean by that? Did she mean I should be even smaller? Did she mean I’m not small enough? Does she think I’m TOO small?”

I should have said to my friend, “Hey thanks…Actually, it’s funny you should say that. I’m trying to put on muscle…So hopefully next time you see me, I’ll look bigger!”

Just be careful with the comments to someone who is struggling or trying to make changes to their physique.

Chances are, they have enough dialogue going on in their head. And what they see in the mirror might be in complete distortion to what you see when you look at them.

P.S. I have posted progress pics in the Progress Pic page but here they are to save you a click:

March 13th, 2015. 135lbs and feeling strong, but not too fluffy.
March 13th, 2015. 135lbs and feeling strong, but not too fluffy.

The caption from my Instagram page: I’m Huge! 🙂 5 Months to go until my next figure competition. Feeling good at 135lbs.

And I’m proud to say the comments were all positive reinforcement. 🙂

 

 

Strangers on the Track

Indoor%20Track%201I’ve been going to my local gym for over a year now and I’ve identified several people who are always there that I think are noteworthy. I’ve actually decided to give them names even though I have no idea what their real names are. Just thought it was cute and funny to do so. Here goes:

Harold and Harriet – the Old People

These are the older couple that always holds hands when walking the indoor track.  When it’s my turn or someone else’s turn to pass them on the right side, they stop holding hands and the man walks behind the woman until it’s “clear” to hold hands again and walk together.

I think it’s the coolest and cutest thing. No one else there does it, as far as I can tell. Just them. And they are adorable.

I always have my headphones in so I don’t hear if they talk about me as I speed past them. I have a feeling they might be thinking, “Why is she running so damn fast? Is there a fire?”

Once in a while they don’t hear/see me behind them and they are still holding hands as I’m coming up behind them. I’ve never had to say, “On your right!!” to them yet. I usually just start jogging LOUDER with my feet so they turn around and have this look on their face that says, “Oh Lord! Here comes that girl again!” And then Harriet probably says, “Move over Harold!”

I’m probably one of the youngest people on the track at the time of day that I go (mid afternoon before the teenagers take over) so it’s mostly stay at home Mom’s and old people. And then me.

Britney and Bobby – The “Too Cool for This Place” couple

But there’s also the annoying “Let’s pretend we own this track and disregard anyone else who is on it” people. And there’s a few of them.  I call them Britney and Bobby. They are the WORST. They are in their late teens, early 20’s and they just don’t give a damn.  They walk around like they own the track, walking extremely slowly,

If you have to yell, “On your right!” as you pass them by, they move over about an inch. They don’t hold hands. They just walk next to each other taking up the entire track. And they talk…and talk..and talk some more. In case you haven’t guessed, Britney and Bobby aren’t there to workout. They are there to socialize…with each other. Infuriating for people who are trying to get a little workout in.

Because of their lack of track courtesy and etiquette, they do force me to pay careful attention to whom I may literally run into as I jog past them. This is the only silver lining I can find with them. Most of the time, I secretly rejoice as they make their way to to the exits when they’re done with their leisurely stroll.

OCD Cindy – The Lap Counter/Obsessive Tracker

OCD Cindy is probably not obsessive compulsive, but she keeps track of everything, including the laps around the track. She holds a counter in her left hand clicking off each lap as she walks. (12 laps equals a mile). She also writes down a lot of stuff in a journal while she’s there. I assume it’s either her food or her laps in written form. Fascinating and also causes me to be curious. If OCD Cindy is walking the track as I come up the stairs to start walking, I want to walk just as long as she does.  This complete stranger pushes me to work harder even though she’s just walking.

So what’s the (life) lesson that we can learn from all these track stars?

– Slow down. But not too slow that you cause a problem.

– Be kind to others as they move past you, perhaps even a little faster than you. Let them go by.

– Be mindful of those around you. Smile, strike up a conversation, say hello.

– It’s not how fast you make your laps around. It’s more about how you feel at the end of your journey.

– Keep a count of how far your journey has taken you, adding a little bit more challenging to it each time.

– Don’t fault anyone for making your journey a little bit annoying. If they’re in your way, just move around them. Don’t let them bother you or get in your head.

– Keep running as long as you can, but know that you can always walk when the road gets rough and bumpy.

Look for those who can teach you something, not just about training and working out and being healthy, but about life in general. You can find them in the most unusual places, even at the gym.