November 10, 2013

Why I've given up my dream of becoming an exercise instructor

I've been sitting on this post for a while. I started it months ago.  

Usually, on Saturdays, I get up semi-early, eat breakfast, check email, and go to the gym.  I had every intention of doing that on this past Saturday.  I didn't.  I got up and started baking.  I spent the morning in the kitchen, then I played with the dog, then I sat outside with Scott, then I went to the grocery store, and I didn't go to the gym at all.  It was nice.  Going to the gym lately hasn't brought me any kind of joy.  In fact, I kind of hate it.  So I don't think I'm going to do it. 

Something had been bugging me all summer and, honestly, this post has been a long time coming.  I'm sharing it because I need to get it out.  Also, there might be others out there who feel the same and are struggling.

At first, when we got to Missouri, exercise was FUN.  It was challenging.  I enjoyed that 9am class everyday.  It tasted a lot like freedom.  Hadn't I wanted to go to 9am classes when I was in Alaska? Yes, well: The grass is not always greener on the other side. At some point, it became a chore.  I lost interest.  But I couldn't stop going.  Bad things happen when you stop exercising, right?  As long as I was exercising everyday, I could eat whatever I wanted.  But if I was putting all that effort into exercise, why would I put junk into my body?  It was completely counter-productive.  It became a struggle I dealt with all summer long.

Something had happened to me during deployment last year.  I started exercising to increase my endurance, gain muscle, and take up my time.  I did all of those things.
I very much developed a mentality of, "Oh, I can eat that, because I worked out today" and "Oh, I can't have that...I didn't work out today".  But it was okay, until we got here and I had the chance to “go big or go home” each and every day.  I got nothing but relief out of exercise.  It was sheer, "Whew, I completed that chore for today."

It wasn’t joyful anymore.

At the end of July, after 2 1/2 months of this, I realized it was a problem and I had to stop.  I was feeling defeated, disordered, and like there was no end in sight.  I tried to explain it to Scott.  He knew that going to the gym had previously given me so much enjoyment. 

Most people here communicate through Facebook groups.  I ended up belonging to a couple different of gym-oriented ones through friends/instructors I've met.

A challenge was posted for the gym-goers awhile back.  The challenge was to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks by “eating clean, working out 3x a day, and no starving!”.

I saw so much wrong with that that it actually hurt to read it.  And it hurt when I watched people jump on board.  I didn't want to lose 10 pounds.  I wanted to maintain and keep whatever tone I had; that's always been my goal.   So where was my place in this class, that I’ve been going to since May, when everyone else was playing Biggest Loser?  What’s my motivation? 

The short answer is that I didn't really have any, so I needed to take a step back.  This was at the beginning of August.  

Dorothy posted about a book shortly after that.  I ordered the book from Amazon as soon as I read what she had to say about it.  The chapter on exercise really spoke to me.  I fit the description pretty well, and that kind of terrifies me.

I've realized that going to classes in which the instructor screams, "More, more!" isn't good for me.  

There was a much healthier approach to fitness at my gyms in Alaska.  I have nothing but good things to say about AT&T Sportscenter and the gyms on JBER.  Gym-goers in Alaska, for the most part, were quite well-rounded.  The gym would be empty on the weekends…because people were out living their lives.  Hiking, hunting, fishing, camping…that’s what people in Alaska did on the weekends.  I felt successful and accomplished there.  Like I was exercising, but I was also living.  I wasn’t just looking toward that next class at the gym (For the record there was a period of time when I was doing 2 classes a day a few days a week in 2012, but that was when I was working toward/practicing for my Turbokick certification.)

I was shocked, flabbergasted, and almost appalled that the gyms here are full on the weekends.  It was so different!  On Memorial Day weekend, I went to a Body Blast class.  There were 40 people there.  It was unbelievable.  The gyms in Alaska shut down on holiday weekends.  People had things to do!  In fact, it was always pretty inconvenient for me...I never had things to do (har har, right?).

At first I thought the people here were just more “into” exercise and fitness.  It was interesting and refreshing in a new way.

But, in some cases, I see it at an unhealthy level now and I don’t want to do that anymore.

I'd predicted that I'd miss my gym in Alaska.  I do.  

I've since removed myself from these gym-oriented Facebook groups.  I'm trying to stay away from the "fitspiration" mentality that has been surrounding me since we moved here.  I don't want someone telling me I need to go to two classes everyday, because that's the message I was getting all summer.

Anyway.  That's what's been on my mind lately.  I just felt like I needed to share.  

Back to the title of this post...I don't think I could ever be a fitness instructor here.  In fact, had we been here when I'd been bitten by the gym bug, I don't know where I'd be right now.  Definitely not in any kind of healthy place.  I'm grateful that I have a good gym/fitness experience to balance out whatever it is that I've run into here.

Yes, guys.  "Grateful" for Alaska.  

[insert unrelated Scout photo here]


  1. Okay. Maybe this is why I have SUCH a negative impression of fitness and gyms. It's never because it's "healthy." It's never because it's "fun." People get the impression that I simply DO NOT CARE about myself if I say I've never had kale or that I'm not one to spend an hour on a treadmill a day. I've never fit into the gym scene. Even the Zumba classes I was going to--I liked the IDEA of the classes. I liked being goofy and silly and moving my body. I liked that it was one hour a day specifically just for me. I thought about nothing else. But then the instructor would scream "MORE," or "LET ME HEAR YOU SCREAM," and I'm I don't want to give you more. I don't WANT to scream. I want to dance around and be goofy. I don't need you to give me abs by tomorrow--please stop trying. I am appalled by the gym aspect in our society. I wish I could move to Alaska. I'd probably be a gym person there. Here? I'll walk my dog, thank you very much.

  2. This makes me sad for you. I love my gym, but it is a positive place. The instructors are there for us, and classes are fun. (Kind of like what you had in Alaska.)One of the instructors has been recovering from body image issues, and she just focuses on fun and how getting us to do our best. Have you tried any other gyms in your area? Maybe there is one that is more health centered.

  3. Obviously exercise IS good for you, and as you know I struggle DAILY with it, but I think a lot of people become extreme about it once they get to goal. Too extreme. You mostly seem to be good at balance, so I think if right now you have to find a new balance, you'll get back there when you're ready. :O)

  4. Sounds like it's right to take a step back. I'm not a huge exercise person, but I like taking classes or lifting or running. But I go through phases of exercising, followed by months of not really.

  5. I honestly don't blame you! I absolutely love running but there are people who are making it fun for me. I'm doing my best to look past it.

  6. Fitspiration groups - you nailed it. Those are SO unhealthy, at least for someone like me who obsesses like that. I'm at the point right now with the gym that I'm loving it. I think I'm where you were. But I'm scared about what you're writing about - because there does become a time that loving the gym SO MUCH becomes just more like what it said in the book. You know? I still cannot skip a day of exercise. I skipped Halloween, because I had to and wow. I might feel better, I might be able to say "I'm strong" and believe it now, but I am not at all okay in the gym department. Thank you for writing this Kristin. I'm glad the book helped you. I need to re-read it again. ((hugs))

  7. I know a few people who worry me slightly that they might be taking things way too far with exercise--and I don't think it's healthy to get obsessed over. I exercise purely to feel good. I don't like exercise, but I know if I'm too lazy my back will start hurting again, so I just do a couple of "active" things a days and consider that exercise. I'm not a huge food lover--I eat when I'm hungry and that's it, so thankfully I've never had to get into a cycle of exercising so that I can eat what I want--I can imagine that could be tough to break out of.

  8. Hey Kristin! Very interesting post. I don't agree with the fitsporation groups encouraging everyone to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks. That's unrealistic and unhealthy. I think that exersize is a good thing to have in life. I use it for stress relief and being overall healthy. I do not subscribe to any fads. As you saw on my blog, I think walking daily is a good idea. Getting some fresh air at lunch or after work can invigorate anyone. It would seem that I don't believe a gym is the only way to being healthy. Ps, if I am a noreply blogger again, let me know so I can scream at my computer and blogger.

  9. Ahhh, GRATEFUL for Alaska! :-D That is nice to hear-- at least you'll always have great memories of gym time during your time there (and hopefully it doesn't make you feel sad but over time, just like you said, GRATEFUL for it).

    I think it's very admirable and responsible that you're making the change. I DO NOT do classes that have instructors shouting at you. My favorite classes almost feel like church in a way. You feel happy and cleansed and enlightened afterwards!

    Hope you're doing well though and if need be, find something that makes you just as happy, Kristin!

  10. So much of this is why I don't like gyms/group think. The hysteria and obsession is off-putting and makes me feel like crap.

    Great post!


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