photos by Julie Verlinden
Throughout different stages of my life, I've had different sources of motivation in maintaining a certain level of fitness. My motivation now carries a deeper reasoning behind it compared to my younger, athlete, I have to fit into a size 2 self. Bottom line is, movement heals. No matter what your inspiration is, keep moving! . Chances are your sources of inspiration will be different throughout your entire life. Here is what has inspired me throughout my life.
A competitive volleyball player throughout my middle school and high school years, my motivation was pretty simple -- winning. Volleyball was my life! That and music. I had practice everyday of the week, and on weekends I would go to the gym to workout with my dad, who was also an athlete and still goes to the gym every day. He would help me train in the weight room and would time my sprints. I was a setter, so being fast was pretty crucial. When school season was over, I transitioned right into playing competitively with a travel team with just as rigorous of a practice and training schedule. I'm so glad I played sports when I was younger. The dedication, consistency, and body awareness I gained as an athlete has stayed with me and played a very important role in maintaining my fitness as an adult.
Fast forward a couple of years, just out of college, teaching piano lessons for a few hours a day then gigging at local bars and restaurants for a few hours per night, and my motivation to workout became, quite simply, pain relief. The repetition of hunching over a piano, playing guitar, and lifting heavy equipment took its toll and struggling with chronic neck and back pain became my norm. I had heard that Pilates was good for your back, and stumbled upon a local studio while I was shopping one day. I signed up for my first private session, and the rest is history. After a few years off from a regular fitness routine, and significant weight gain, I had found something that made me feel like an athlete again. I was pumped and would take one or two classes a day. Combined with an overhaul on my diet, cooking mostly at home and cutting my portion sizes in half, I was down 30 lbs within a year and felt and looked better than ever. Seeing and feeling the physical changes kept me motivated to keep up with my workouts. Building up a whole new wardrobe was icing on the cake!
My career took a turn towards stage performance, mostly musicals that required singing and dancing at the same time, as well as being able to fit in the costumes that were custom made for me. Rehearsals became a part of my regular fitness routine which was nice when I couldn't make it to a Pilates class. I will say, the atmosphere of being backstage and doing quick changes with other petite women made me more aware of what I looked like in my birthday suit. My fitness motivation took on a more vain undertone. Although I still valued keeping my body healthy for the long term, I was definitely concerned about how my clothes fit and looked, and with my wedding in the near future, I wanted to look amazing in my dress.
Looking back, I realize that I was concerned over nothing because I was in amazing shape. Between dancing, HIIT workouts, and getting a comprehensive pilates certification which required me to perform at an advanced level, I was pure muscle. I probably thought I was fat. I want to slap myself for ever thinking that. One year, when I had come to my senses, for Lent, I gave up negative thinking and speaking about my body. I have kept up with this practice ever since. I say "practice" because it truly is something you have to practice. The way we think and speak about our bodies plays a huge role in our overall health. I believe in balance in every aspect of life, and focusing too much on what size you are, what you weigh, and what you look like should be done in moderation. There are plenty of other issues of concern that require your focus.
..."I couldn't stop thinking about how lucky I was to simply be able to sit up in bed in the morning, place my feet on the ground, and move however and wherever I wanted to..."
..."it is a privilege to have independent mobility..."
Now, approaching 30, and having gone through my first pregnancy, I've taken a deep look inwards at what really makes me want to keep moving. My son, who was born with a chromosomal abnormality causing developmental delays, has to work so damn hard just to stay sitting up without someone holding him. There is a chance he may never walk. I remember how hard it hit me to hear that he may never walk independently. I couldn't stop thinking about how lucky I was to simply be able to sit up in bed in the morning, place my feet on the ground, and move however and wherever I wanted to. It is a task that we take for granted.
My motivation nowadays is quite simple, it is a privilege to have independent mobility. It is the sheer ability to initiate movement in myself that drives me to keep my body at its optimal level of performance. I see my son working so hard to just balance, and needing us to move him from point A to point B, and I wonder how he will ever explore his world on his own. We will make it happen, little by little. For now, I take comfort in being able to carry him a little longer, which brings me to my next point. My son is only getting bigger and still needing to be carried everywhere, meaning I've got to work on my own physical strength to be able to do this. There are parents with children of varying ages and sizes who need help getting in and out of their cars, wheelchairs, baths, etc., and it is not always an option to have a hired caregiver to help. The emotional and physical strength of other families with kids with special needs and medical complexities blows me away and inspires me to be a better and stronger person, mother, and wife, as well as a stronger fitness coach to my clients.