Jen’s Fitness Journey: #GymMotivation

Posted by Jen Goldston on March 9, 2018

Blog Post #2 – March 16

It started with Group Active.

Well, it actually started with seemingly endless rounds of texts and pep talks from my girlfriends that I could ‘totally do it’ and that ‘it was a great workout’, that I just needed to ‘get used to the cues and the moves, it would be easier after a class or two.’ But let’s fast forward.

Group Active is perhaps, the most well rounded Group Exercise class the JCC has, so if you are looking to get a little taste of what all the other classes offer, this would be where to start. It has 20 minutes of cardio, just enough to make you feel like finding the nearest ditch and laying down in it. 20 minutes of weight training, just enough to make you feel like you could probably train to be an Olympian. It also consists of a balance track, a short workout for your core, and a cool down. It touches on other classes that focus more in depth on all of these things, Centergy: which is yoga and Pilates, Power: which is strength training, Blast: which is an hour of cardio, and Core: which is exactly what it sounds like.

What I like about Active is that it meets you where you are currently at. Anyone can start there. You can push yourself as hard as possible, or if you are feeling tired, or are new to class, you can slow down to meet your body’s needs. The instructors offer modifications as they go through the workout, so if you’re worried about your knees for squats or your shoulders for pushups, they’ve got you covered. The class changes its content every 12 weeks, which is plenty long enough to learn the moves and get comfortable, and just long enough to think that you couldn’t possibly listen to that cool down song one more time, before you get a fresh workout to challenge you again.

The first time I took Active, I walked into the room, and straight back out. There were people building weights, setting up aerobic steps, lacing their shoes, and I was overwhelmed. I’ve walked out of classes before, I’ve let the voice in my head talk me out of doing things that are good for me, simply because it was scary. Please know that the instructors are there for you. They love their jobs, they care about the people they instruct, they genuinely want to see you succeed in whatever your health and fitness goals are.

When I met Evan, it was as though someone had thrown a life preserver to me while I treaded water, trying to decide if I was going to swim or drown. He introduced himself to me as the instructor, helped me set up my step, walked me through how to choose weights, and told me it was going to be fun. He looked up at me in the middle of class, after telling a semi-funny joke that I was too nervous to laugh at and said ‘That’s about as good as my humor gets!’ and I thought to myself ‘Okay. This is a person who I can learn from, someone who knows how to not take themselves too seriously (and also, who is fit enough to breathe while pumping out cardio, because I was struggling.)’

Look, I’m not going to lie, the first class wasn’t fun. It was sweaty, I was scared, I couldn’t keep up, but I was also inspired by the people around me. THEY were having fun, they were even smiling? I wanted that.

At the end of class, Evan checked in with me. That’s the type of person he is, warm, and funny, dedicated and smart. There is not a class of his that I have attended where he hasn’t taught me something new about the Why of how we do things, regarding form or technique. He encourages people to ask questions, he never rushes an explanation.

So I came back. I came back again, and again, and again. There were hard days, where I felt frustrated by my clumsy body and the soreness that I took as a sign of weakness when I was done, (spoiler alert, soreness does not equate weakness), but there were, and continue to be really fantastic days, and they outnumber the hard ones. Days where I feel capable and strong, where I can see the progress from that first timid class. This is going to sound cheesy, but there is something fundamental and important that happens in Group Exercise classes, an exchange of energy between people who are there, striving for a common goal. You lean on each other, you learn from each other. What starts as a fragile goal for health has become an imperative stress reliever and a true joy in my life.

And if you’re lucky enough to have free time when Evan teaches Group Active, you’ll get to hear all his semi-funny jokes. So make sure you laugh; he likes that.

March 9, 2018 – Blog Post #1

When I was approached about sharing my fitness journey, I balked. That’s my MO, and maybe yours too. Who would want to read about this? Who could relate to this? But that mentality is exactly what held me down and back for so long, so instead I said ‘Yes.’

Yes I will be vulnerable with you.

“How should I start?” I queried, imagining an awkward Q & A session.

“Think about what motivates you” came the reply. Okay. I can do that. #GymMotivation is my favorite instagram hashtag after all. But my motivations felt embarrassing, and inauthentic.

I wanted to stop shopping at stores that made me pay more simply because I took up more space. I wanted to set up a healthy foundation for my kids. Those were my highlight reel reasons, but the truth? The truth was that I was disappearing from my own life.

We took a trip, I stared in wonderment at the photos and when we came back, I got angry. I scoured my phone for past photos, evidence of how I had led myself here, and realized with a sinking heart, that the worse I felt about myself, the more I removed myself from my own happy memories. There were my kids and my husband, my friends, and my family doing all these fun things, and I know I was there, but I’m not in the photos.

I told myself, I deserved my own dedication. I deserved to win my life back from myself.

I started walking, drinking water, and alternating over-eating and under-eating. Punishing myself for making such a mess of things, and bad talking myself in the process. I wanted ownership over a body that I had not treated very well, and that body was just not having it.

I stopped, I reassessed. I walked up to the JCC and back home more times than I care to admit, each time with the intention of signing up for Personal Training and each time, not doing it.

It is not failure if you keep trying, friends. It is brave to be scared of something, and to do it anyway.

I consider the day in July of 2017 that I met with Jason Stowell, the Health and Wellness Division Director to be a day when the world said, ‘I’m going to pitch this one to you real slow, so knock it out of the park.’ He assigned me to Michael Kroll for Personal Training, and it has been a game changer.

Michael’s breadth of knowledge, dedication to his job, his willingness to carefully push while refusing to let you slack.. they are all markers of an excellent trainer. With his guidance I learned to appreciate strength over smallness, to understand the importance of form and stretching, to be grateful to my body for what it was learning to do. I can also dead lift 205 lbs now, so.. that’s pretty awesome.

Michael began suggesting adding cardio to round out my gym sessions. I had a group of girlfriends who had been going to Group Active and Group Power, so in October, I hesitantly joined them. Now look, before July of 2017, I had never stepped foot in a gym. I’m not going to say I busted out some flawless cardio and we all lived happily ever after. I was a sloppy, hot mess and if it were not for the encouragement of the instructors, I would have waltzed myself straight out of there and not returned. But that’s just it, it’s what sets the JCC apart. Evan, Molly, Holly, Patti, and all the instructors for the group workouts are incredible. They care if you succeed. They check in with you, they Teach you, they Guide you. They are hands down the single most comforting factor about getting sweaty in a room full of other people.

Nothing worth fighting for is easy. Every day you have to wrest victory from self sabotage. Every day you have to make the dedicated choice that You are Worth Investing in. BECAUSE YOU ARE. Those classes that I was so intimidated by? They are some of my favorite hours of the day now. Hours that belong to no one but me. Minutes that are tunnel-focused into pushing my body to better itself. It doesn’t matter how you come to the JCC, where on your journey you find yourself inside her non-judgmental walls, the people there will accept you and welcome you right as you are.

My trainer is my friend. Those instructors? They are my friends too. The strangers at the gym? Friends. Because we’ve all got a common goal. Self Investment. Self Dedication. Self Worth. So if you see me at the J, and you want a new gym friend, say ‘hi’, I’ll likely drag you to whatever class I’m headed to. #GymMotivation indeed.

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