• What Three Years of Progress Really Looks Like

    What Three Years of Progress Really Looks Like

    Three years at the same gym is the longest sustained period of physical activity in my life. 

    I was active growing up, played varsity soccer and basketball, but there were always down periods and the coaching staff cared more about the team goals than individual players. There was very little “you need to work on this” or “let’s give you a personal workout plan”. While I was skinny and always full of energy, in junior high I started spending more time reading or being in front of a computer and didn’t have a healthy diet. (True story: I’ve never taken a health or wellness class in my life.) I quickly put on weight, hit new highs immediately out of high school, then maintained a very high weight throughout college. I quit gaining, but I was already huge.

    After a friend’s wedding one year where I felt utterly miserable, I determined that I needed to actually join a gym and turn my life around.

    Prior to joining Movement Minneapolis, I was attending a local national gym chain, but I was completely clueless as to what I should be doing. A coworker had shown me some basic dumbbell workouts (including the awesome goblet squat), so I would show up at the gym whenever I felt like it, walk on a treadmill for 40 minutes, do some dumbbell curls and squats, then shower and go home, feeling like I had done enough. 

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    But without a sustained plan that incorporated both fitness and diet, nothing ever changed, and the scale never moved. A free consultation with a trainer resulted in being handed a stack of books to read and being told to stand on one leg and curl to work on my balance and core.

    Needless to say I was inconsistent at best. Things weren’t getting better, and were in fact getting worst. Around this time, I was exposed to Steve Kamb’s online program Nerd Fitness, and was very interested in this Paleo diet and the barbell programs he offered, but at the time I couldn’t justify the price and knew I would struggle to implement it myself. However, there were a few Movement people I followed on Twitter that I was getting to know better, and they encouraged me to come and visit, and especially to take the free introduction class to the gym. Several members from my introduction class are still at Movement in fact. JVB led us, and it was challenging but also invigorating! I decided to join the gym instead of buying a do it yourself program, and quit the other gym shortly after.

    The Wednesday after Labor Day is when I officially committed to the Movement. I had taken the introduction class earlier in the year and done the free 30 day period (I have a commitment tweet saved from 8/20/13!), but setting an exact day to commit to my own health and life was just what I needed. My goals were different when I joined Movement, but once I hit my very first PR (11/14/13), everything changed, and I was finally in charge of my own fitness for myself and not for anyone else. I quickly grew to love the programming and kettlebells in particular, though my form needed a lot of work as a beginner.

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    Those first few months at Movement were crucial. The key thing for me was having a daily goal. I knew each day that I was only there for the daily goal, and it was ok to not hit it perfectly (and in fact, when I did sometimes, I would get hurt and scolded and told to stop). A mindset shift was necessary. You don’t need to be perfect, just be good enough today and again tomorrow. The daily goal was often challenging but also very doable, the programming guiding you along perfectly so that over time you started seeing yourself doing more and more until it became effortless.

    I’m only here because I had a daily goal, and it was ok to not hit it perfectly.

    Hard work is legit scary. Success is even scarier. Especially if you don’t really know what you are doing or need to do. I was unable to visualize what my life would be like if I kept working out, and I’m sure I said some shortsighted lofty goals to the trainers. But most of my troubles stemmed from not knowing what to do in a routine and not being able to visualize the end result.

    And those small daily goals allowed me to crush my very first max day, one of the key moments of commitment to changing my life. My first max day was also the perfect max day for me. No one else was at the gym during the 4pm class, I could listen to any music I want and I could just come in and push myself with trainers checking in every few minutes. You just deadlifted 295? Put 10 more on. 305? I think you can do another 10. Look at you, you did it! Let’s stop there for today, congrats on the new PR! Remember when you could barely do 105 a few months ago? Incredible.

    There were many false starts while trying to fix my life, but a combination of tracking and little small changes started adding up to huge benefits that corrected many things. Movement first, then diet…then everything else.

    Getting into a fitness routine was the start. But changing the rest of your life isn’t always easy. If you look at my chart, you’ll see me lose a good 20 lbs or more of weight…and then gain back about 50. I quit weighing myself once I weighted close to 30 lbs more than when I had started Movement. I know I went higher. And this was while I was a member of the gym but suffering through some horrendous health problems, mostly gout related, but also years of neglect, from shoulder and knee problems to receiving whiplash not once but three times in a very short period of time. Around this time several important personal events happened in my life too, where the only consistently positive thing for me was visiting the gym. Fitness and diet are just two parts of the makeup of who you are, and if not everything is testing well, everything else can suffer.

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    Change often happens gradually with little things, but can snowball into things that are life changing.

    Ultimately, I had to make some drastic changes in my life for this to happen. There’s an ongoing joke or meme at Movement that after being there for several months, people start to notice their life no longer working or testing well, and huge life changing fixes are needed. I can honestly say I am not the same person I was when I walked into Movement. I’ve had to end some relationships, rework my schedule, avoid certain places and identities that no longer worked for me. I learned to be a quitter so I could win more. My identity and my interests and tastes have all changed as a result of joining Movement and taking charge of my fitness and life, and not everything has quite settled yet.

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    There will always be those who are challenged by the new you. The person they knew is changing and vanishing, and they’ll do what they can to keep you as you are. But I’ve found new people who’ve been excited and happy for me, encouraging all these new life changes that are still ongoing. And above everyone else the coaches at Movement Minneapolis have been there for everything, helping each step of the way. Who knew briefly meeting the owner of Movement on his way out the door to his honeymoon would have such an impact in every area of my life?

    Three years from officially joining Movement, I can honestly say my life is better than ever and constantly improving. There’s still a long way to go, and I do have some big goals, but I know that consistently showing up every day, making small changes to my life, and having a strong group of fellow lifters and gym members around me forms a community that will not let me or anyone else fail. The trick as always is to choose to move first.

    As it says on the wall, nothing happens until something moves. #PReveryday. And pull shit off the floor…every day.

     

    Photo Cred: Erica Hanna of Puke Rainbows