There are plenty of obvious changes that have occurred over the years with my focus on fitness and competing. I have basically shrunk in half, put on obvious muscle, changed the way that I eat and view food, and added a structured workout regime. Those are all changes that anyone would clearly notice. But what I want to talk about are the changes that have happened that may not be obvious to you from pictures or social media. These changes are deeper, and are more than my physique.
Working towards my first competition has brought a lot of changes to my character and soul that probably only those who see me and interact with me daily would notice. They’re internal, and not visible from brief interactions. Yet they have been pivotal in my life.
“Sure, I have always been a type A personality, and been an over achiever. But competing has brought my dedication to an entirely different level. I am goal oriented, and am always striving for perfection, but working towards competing has taught me to take each day as an opportunity to succeed. What can I do today to be the best that I can be? What can I do today to get me closer to achieving my goals? How can I celebrate the small victories today that will spur me on to even greater victories in the future? It can be obsessive, but I think intentionally finding that balance of dedication to a goal vs obsession is key.
I have learned that, while this may come across as selfish, I am ultimately responsible for reaching my own goals and if I care deeply enough about them, then I will do anything to achieve them. Whether that means prepping all of my food for a week, going to bed by 9pm to get enough recovery for my body, not drinking alcohol, bringing my own food to social functions, waking up early to get my workout in when there are no other times in the day that would work, or even changing my work hours so I can still train effectively. Ultimately if I want to reach my goals, I have to have the dedication to make it happen.
This transfers over into my life beyond fitness. I have professional goals, financial goals, relationship goals, etc. If I am truly serious about any of them, I have to be dedicated to reaching them, and that takes intentional work. It means asking questions in meetings when I don’t know the answer, putting in long hours to get things done, intentionally spending time with people, and intentionally consuming information and knowledge from others. Goals require dedication and work, they don’t just happen by sitting and waiting for things to fall into place.
“I have not always been confident, I have not always been outspoken, and I have not always felt like I had what it takes. Sometimes I felt like I had a great response of running away when things were daunting or overwhelming! Lifting and working towards competing has pushed me to set big goals and have the courage to step out and reach them. Sure I might load plates on a barbel and not get it up off the ground, but I tried! It doesn’t matter who saw or who may have laughed. I had the courage to take a leap off the cliff and jump into the water.
I was never one to try new things because of fear of the “what ifs.” What if I fail? What if someone sees me fail? What if I embarrass myself? What if I can’t? What if I fail and never try again? Competing and lifting has taught me that I will never know if I never try. I no longer let fear and the “what ifs” keep me from reaching my goals. I now have the courage to try, and try again.
This does not stop with having courage to reach for fitness goals. I am in a season of life right now where so many things are new, and I just have to have the courage to go for it. Have I ever been a manager before? No. Have I ever hired anyone before? No. Have I ever given board meeting presentations by myself? No. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the courage to step up to the plate and give it a shot. Sure I don’t always believe in myself! But I now have the courage to speak up and try!
I have days where I could legitimately cry mid set, days where people’s comments stab my soul, and days where I want to sit in bed with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and order a delivery pizza. But I have learned to have resilience to overcome my failures, deal with my challenges, and get back at it. Sure I have cried in my office, I have taken my frustration from insensitive comments out on the iron in the gym, and I have verbally vented to my husband about difficult situations. But in the end, I know what I am after, and I have the resilience to not let those hard things deter me.
Being gracious with myself means that when I have a day where I wasn’t perfect with my nutrition, or I skipped part of a workout (or one entirely!) that I don’t beat myself up. Because I am an over achiever, I expect myself to give 110% all of the time, in everything that I do. I am constantly asking myself, “could I have done better?” “was that really my full effort or was I a little lazy?” “how could I do this better next time?” I ask myself these questions constantly, both in my fitness goals but also in general life. I feel as though if I am not keeping myself in check, then it can be far too easy to slip into complacency. (And if you know me well, you know that one of my BIGGEST values is to never be complacent, but to always be improving and moving forward.) This has proven however to be a large cause of stress in my life. Yes, I know, I do this to myself! So something I have learned….well been actively learning, is to be gracious with myself. This ties in of course with taking things a day at a time, giving it my 100% for that single day, and building the resilience to keep going when I fail. But in order to do all of those things, I have to be gracious.
I also have learned to be gracious to others. I don’t know the details of every person’s story. I don’t know where their challenges or struggles lie, and I don’t know how my words or actions may affect them. I have a friend who is truly one of my favorite people, and they had the courage one day to bring to my attention how my words inadvertently hurt them and made them struggle. I had no idea, it didn’t even cross my mind, that my verbal drooling, if you will, over a food item lead to an internal struggle. I love this friend and would never want to cause any sort of challenge in that way. So I am extremely grateful that they brought up how my words unintentionally caused them to feel. That day, I learned that I need to be more gracious with others.
One example of a way I am attempting to be more gracious is when someone offers me a food item, instead of saying, “no, I can’t” I replace it with “no thank you.” I don’t need to project my boundaries, opinions, restrictions etc. onto them. I have chosen this lifestyle, and I can be polite and acknowledge their generosity but politely decline. They don’t need to know the reasoning, or what I am trying to achieve.
This particular aspect has been more fresh in my mind lately as I have been on the receiving end of some insensitive comments that lacked graciousness or tact. I chock it up to people being ignorant of the topic, or how their words make others feel, and maybe they just don’t know. But it does make me more sensitive to how I can in turn be more gracious to others. I’m sure the older woman at the gym only meant her “you’re going to get boy muscles,” comment as a kind warning from one female to another….(maybe) or that the man who commented to my teammate the other day that she was becoming a “skeleton” (3 weeks out from her competition) didn’t know how his words would anger and frustrate her. It just reminds me to put on a filter, recognize that I don’t know everyone’s story, and that it is more important to lift others up and celebrate with them, than accidentally tear them down. And really all it takes, is a little graciousness.
I feel as though people can get caught up in just the physical changes that have happened in my life over the past few years, and not recognize or realize the immense personal growth that has occurred because of it. If you’ve ever considered competing, or even just reaching for a huge goal, know that it’s not just your physical body that can or will change. You will experience growth in far more ways than gaining lean muscle or a trophy. So when people ask if I will continue competing, the answer is whole heartedly yes!