Progress, not perfection...

I was talking with a friend today about my future. I’ve been presented with a few fun opportunities recently; where I can have a hand in sales, fitness and nutrition, AND still have the flexibility to be around for my kids. So, while I’ve pondered that the last few days, a friend asked why I never write about fitness and nutrition. I’ve always wanted to start adding some posts about healthy recipes I’ve made, or cool workouts I’ve learned, but I haven’t because, in all honesty, I felt like a fraud posting about that area of my life. Not because I don’t do them, but because I feel unqualified.

I don’t know about you, but when I see posts or articles about real fitness gurus, or “fit moms”, or women who have six-pack abs at eight months pregnant, I ASSUME that they pretty much stick to the healthiest diet imaginable, and workout, I don’t know, seven-eight hours a day? Maybe they do…or maybe its their genetic make up to look that way. Or maybe they do something in between, and are lucky that their body takes to it. I really don’t know; but I know I’m certainly not like them. When I look in the mirror, I see some tone and I recognize that I’m not out of shape, but I still see loads of room for improvement (i.e., I hardly see someone who’s appearance screams “I work out!”). However, over the last few months, I’ve had classmates and trainers alike ask if I work out at another gym, on top of my classes (HA! Like I have time). People comment on my arms almost daily, and last week during a workout, another mom of three looked at me the way that I look at other “fit moms” and said “But you look SO FIT!” My answer? “Trust me, I’m not as fit as I look.” That’s my truth. That is how I feel. Not because I don’t put the work in, but because I don’t feel “put together” enough to be one of those people. I’m the woman stumbling into class either two minutes before it begins, throwing the kids in the daycare with a blown kiss, or two minutes late, and scrambling to catch up. I am the one with a tear in my gym pants that I don’t notice until halfway through class. No matter how late I get dressed to avoid getting stains on my workout gear, something gets on me before I enter the gym. My hair is everywhere while I work out, no matter what I do, and can definitely be heard counting my reps out loud (because I will absolutely lose count with the many thoughts swirling in my head). When I was talking to my friend this morning, they mentioned that maybe other moms feel that way, too.

My only goal when I began was to stay sane. I was never aiming to be “fit.” Muscles and a small waistline were never my endgame. Fitting into a dress, or a size, or a number on a scale meant NOTHING to me. When I started my journey with exercise, my husband was sick. I had no control over what was happening in my life and it was making me insane. I mean that literally; the stress of my life was taking its toll on me; OCD, PTSD, severe anxiety, it was all pressing down on me. I was breastfeeding our baby, and wanted to continue. My doctor advised me against using anxiety meds while nursing (I did my own research and decided to attempt an alternate route, but I want to note that I think medication is a GODSEND for many). Kenny was weak from treatments half of each month, I had three energetic kids to care for, and nowhere to place my angst—so I redirected it into my workouts. When I had a bad day, I upped my weights. My gym was not only a place for me to shove my anxiety, but an uplifting place of encouragement; where the motto is “I can and I will.” I closely followed the nutrition plan, felt my energy levels rise (hugely helpful in my life), and I continued to build on my modifications. Before I knew it, I was seeing muscles poking out of cardigans.

People often look at me (now) and assume I’m naturally athletic. They think that exercise came easily to me. That I just “tra-la-la’d” my way through my workouts and got in shape. I’m really not athletic by default. I absolutely PUSH myself during my workouts, but it ain’t pretty. I am no Fabletics model, with make up and perfect hair while I train. I huff, I puff, I sweat, and I stink to high Heaven when I’m finished (to my fellow gym-goers, I apologize!). I fumble on form constantly. I remember during my first “challenge” at my gym in NJ, the first week, literally every inch of my body hurt. People twice my age were lapping me in reps and weights. If I ever had any thoughts that I was going to just waltz in and do the program, they were squashed pretty quickly. It’s my attitude that pushes me, not some natural athleticism. In fact, anyone who knew me in my younger years will remember someone with a very different appearance.

During high school, when most other kids are in their prime in terms of fitness, I was overweight. I was a size eighteen at my junior prom. A boy in one of my classes started calling me Twinkie because I was fat (so witty, right??). When it came to boys, I was always the “best friend”, rarely the girlfriend. I never had someone ask me to a dance because they had some secret crush on me; and even if anyone did like me, my confidence and self esteem were so low that I sabotaged things. The summer between junior and senior year of high school, the weight started to come off because I started walking a couple of miles every night, and doing The Grind workout a few days a week (HOLLA to anyone old enough to remember The Grind!). Then I fell in love…and whatever comfort I found in cheese fries and ice cream didn’t seem so necessary. Some of the weight stuck around a while, because, y’know, college (beer, wings and pizza, oh my!). After college, we ate out four-five nights a week, and still drank like fish. It wasn’t until after I had kids, started eating at home, and working out some, that I started to get a “taste” for being healthier. Of course, then Kenny got sick, and my journey into attempting a healthier lifestyle was born out of necessity.

So here I am, now: loving the sanity my workouts bring (and the muscles are just an added bonus!) I eat a lot more nutritiously, but I’m still me, a fat kid at heart. What I mean by that is that, although it may appear otherwise, I am not a health robot. I don’t live on kale and salmon, and I indulge sometimes—and by sometimes I DON’T mean twice a year, more like twice a week. I don’t suddenly hate cheese fries, ice cream, fried chicken or French fries, but I save those things for “once in a while.” I love my wine, but keep it to one glass two-three days a week, unless I’m going out with friends on some rare occasion. I don’t work out two-three hours a day, seven days a week. I’d love to say that I even make it to the gym on the five days a week the kids have daycare; but without fail, something happens and I only make it four. That’s right—on average, I get to the gym FOUR DAYS A WEEK, for 45 minutes. Shit happens. Sometimes literally, when your toddler has a “blowout” as you’re getting ready to get out the door. Sometimes there’s a traffic accident. Sometimes you’re running late for ANY number of reasons. Happens to me all.the.time. Some days you just don’t want to go, and that’s okay, too. If you’re listening to your body, and its screaming “I need a day off!” it’s okay to listen. My point here is that, like everything else in my life, my fitness journey is imperfect. I’m not a zealot. I’m not a fit mom who says things like “If I can find time to look like a bikini model after seventeen children, what’s your excuse?” Nope. Just, no (and after three-kids-worth of stretching, no amount of sit ups are going to completely cure my mom pooch or jiggly rear!).

The reason I chose to share, today? In talking with friends about this topic the last few days, they all shared a similar sentiment when I told them that I was thinking about this post. And maybe it would help someone imperfect like myself, realize that you don’t have to aim for “perfect” to start getting healthy. I’m not your competition, and neither are any of the fit moms, or the women lucky enough that they barely have to lift a soup can to get in shape. YOU are your only competition. The amount of reps anyone else is doing in the room is moot. The woman in the room who looks like a model in her gym clothes, while you look like a hot mess who just had a bag of goldfish spilled down her shirt (because that happened to me this week…): she’s not your problem, either. It’s all you, friends. I’m inviting you to join me on my fitness journey because I want you to know: while we may not have the same goals, the same life situations, or the same body type, it doesn’t mean we can’t lift each other up, or even just commiserate about a workout fail, recipe fail, or that “my kids refused to move their rears, and I was seven minutes late, and it was so embarrassing!” vent. We could all use a boost in life sometimes.

Megan Courtney