Hey y’al, in case you missed Part 1, click here. Bringing it full circle here.
Movement Restored: How Exercise & Training Helped Me Find My Path
Fast forward to college. At this point I had now dealt with my fair share of lower back and shoulder issues throughout high school, and my sense of wanting to play basketball regularly waned because of this. Past injuries and a lack of confidence in my body in conjunction with my still-present lack of identity when it came to being a gaming nerd or an athlete, really played into my hesitation of committing to playing sports or partaking in recreational fitness activities.
When I started my first semester of college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do (and honestly, what 18 year old does?). I initially decided that I wanted to declare psychology as my major. Growing up, I had always been particularly good at connecting with people deeply at an individual level, despite my lack of ability to connect with larger groups or be one of the popular kids. I always felt that I was a good shoulder to cry on. A good listener. I have always been a deeply introspective and curious person, wanting to both understand and provide help when it came to helping friends with stresses or emotions they were dealing with. Someone who could provide solace and sound advice to those needing it. I figured hey, clinical psychologist, I could do that, and I might really enjoy it. Well, my undergrad classes quickly allowed me to realize that this was not my calling, at least not at this stage of my life. My own lack of self-awareness and understanding of myself made me realize that I was not ready, nor did I have the capacity at least at that stage of my life to be a therapist. It simply did not feel right.
I decided to look at my passion for movement and working out, which had really taken off my freshman year of college. Lifting weights really gave me something to rely on as I navigated my way through a new and overwhelmingly large environment. It served me in a way that allowed me to build self-confidence. To avoid my social anxiety and ineptitude, my perceived inability to make friends, my lack of self confidence and insecurity about my body, and the fact that I’d never had much luck with girls at that point. I was so afraid of trying alcohol or weed in order to socialize to be comfortable around people. I grew up in a conservative Christian bubble, and it severely impaired my confidence and social skills in many ways, despite the great education I received.
Weightlifting became my safe haven. It became my way for building up confidence in myself. I was starting to look better. I was able to handle myself better and better in the gym. I started getting more attention from girls. My friends started to want to workout with me as their guide. I still occasionally l dealt with my lingering shoulder instability from the multiple dislocations and subluxations over the years, but perseverance really paid off. As my body began to feel better, and my injury history seemed to hinder me less and less, I rediscovered my love for playing basketball.
Ultimately, strength training set in motion my path to self discovery and finding my true self. To finding out who I was and what made me tick. Getting stronger and more confident in one arena of my life really allowed me to start branching out and strengthening myself in other ways beyond just the physical. I am still on that journey to this day. Movement and training is a big part of how I first began a deep and spiritual relationship with myself. Ultimately, strength training gave me an outlet to discover myself, heal my pain, and restore confidence in who I wanted to be in the world.
After I graduated college with my degree in kinesiology, I knew I wanted to utilize training as a tool to help guide other people on their own journey to personal growth and self-discovery. Originally, my plan was to go to physical therapy school, but that was financially unfeasible. Looking back now, I’m glad I didn’t, because most of what can be learned in traditional educational settings, at least in the physical therapy realm, can be learned just as well if not better through independent study.
Throughout this process, I have learned that self-confidence and self-love are the backbone to being able to thrive in the world. We are constantly bombarded with fear. Fear of our health. Fear of dying. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being able to live the lives we want to live. Fear of never living up to expectations (others’ or our own). Fear of failure. There is no true way to making fear disappear. However, there are many ways to become more and more confident in our ability to handle the things that we fear. Maybe even at some point, we get to a place where our fears no longer control us at all. I believe this is an ongoing process throughout life, and for me, strength training was the jumping off point for that process for myself.
My Movement Philosophy: Love, Commitment, & The Process
The dynamic of how the health and fitness industry at large markets to us is still largely focused on catering to our insecurities, our body-image issues, our lack of confidence in the way we look, and our lack of self love and appreciation for our body. As I’ve developed a more thorough understanding of the human body (functional anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, neurology, etc.), it has become clearer to me that not everyone is a healthy 20-something that can just pick up any cookie cutter program and start getting results with it. Most of us do not have a large capacity for quality movement. We are struggling with a negative self image of how we look and what our bodies are capable of. The consequences of living a sedentary lifestyle have really started to plague modern society. More people need to restore function and restore confidence in their ability to use their body, not necessarily to focus on achieving a certain physique.
There is nothing inherently wrong about having an aesthetic purpose for training, but it should never be coming from a place of, “my body sucks,” “I hate the way I look,” or “I wish I had his/her body.” If that is your motivation for training, then it is my opinion that you probably have some soul searching to do. Figure out why you feel that having a better body, losing weight, or having more muscle, running longer distances, or lifting heavier weight is the thing that will ultimately determine your self-confidence and ability to thrive in your life.
That said, whatever the reason for training, even if initially your motivation may be coming from a more shallow, insecure place, the commitment to the process of training is just as important. As you continue to progress with your training, the commitment to the process will eventually force you to confront some of your biggest mental hurdles. You will inevitably start to hit roadblocks. With enough persistence, you will eventually come to realizations about what are causing those roadblocks. Sometimes those roadblocks are mental, sometimes they are physical. Regardless of where the roadblocks are stemming from, in owning the process of training regularly, you will learn a lot about yourself, about what motivates you, and about what your core values are. You’ll eventually discover the WHY behind your training. Everybody has those days where the energy just is not there. Your motivation to train that day might be completely vacant. It’s important to stop and think, “why am I not motivated today?” Personally, some days I love to train, and some days it’s a total drag. What determines that, and why? Committing to the process of training helps you to learn more about yourself and forces you to grow, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.
For me personally, I have developed more and more confidence in myself in a variety of other areas in my life NOT related to the way I look, or my competence in the gym, but instead working on expanding my intellect, my ability to connect and to foster meaningful friendships, to have been in a long-term healthy and deeply fulfilling committed relationship with the love of my life, to have gained new skills and knowledge and expertise in my ability to provide good training and therapy for my clients, and to have continued to progress my career and grow my business and experience varying levels of success. Each of these things have contributed to creating a greater sense of confidence in myself and in my identity.
It is interesting in that it feels like I’ve come full circle. I’ve always been a deep thinker, an introspective type of person. I now feel like 12 years later, I finally am ready to fulfill my deeper sense of wanting being able to help others become the most strong, fully-integrated, self-actualized version of themselves, free of the fears that have been holding them back and preventing them from thriving in their lives. Movement coaching, strength training, and therapy are now my primary vehicles for helping others on this path.
I hope that this incredibly long-winded article hits home for some of you. Hopefully you all got to know me just a little better by giving this a read. My journey to find myself is starting to fully blossom just shy of age 30, and movement has been my vehicle for doing so. I have a strong conviction that strength training is for everybody. I have a passion for wanting to bring these ideas to the world. I want to help all of us shift our perspective, and to continue thriving in our lives and being driven by love and commitment to the process of finding our true selves and sharing it with the world. That is what life is all about.