My fitness journey began on New Years Day, 2015. It started as a way for me to find alone time in my demanding schedule, and as part of a larger effort to take control over the direction my life was going in. When I sat down to write this and actually thought about it, I couldn’t believe it was a little over four years ago. I was a different person then.
I was working seven days a week at two jobs after being fired from the job that I thought was my dream. My goal was to save enough money to open my own business, but that meant putting in serious time at work which left me stressed and exhausted. I had moved in with my husband (then boyfriend) quickly – after only ten months – due to a unique housing opportunity, and was having a difficult time acclimating to living with another person, especially under my current working conditions. After only two months of living together we got a puppy, who honestly at the time I didn’t want. I resented Kanan (my husband) for forcing me to get her, and I felt guilty because I never had time to spend with her. We had gotten our first Border Collie, Orca (who I promise I love now) to keep me safe when Kanan was out commercial fishing. Because of this arrangement, I spent most of her early life alone with a puppy, and because she kept me up all night, I didn’t like her much. Sleep deprivation really makes everything worse.
I was working all the time and not sleeping. I was angry at Kanan and the dog because they wouldn’t let me sleep. Healthy food wasn’t a priority – eating was rushed and done out of necessity. And I stopped caring about fitness.
I had always been an active person. Varsity tennis in high school. Workout classes with friends in college. Videos at home, the occasional jog, going on long walks to socialize with girlfriends. Nothing regimented or organized. Just a healthy amount of physical activity on a moderate level because I enjoyed it, and most of the time it doubled as social hour. Because of this, I generally felt happy with my physical body as well – I didn’t have fitness goals, or weight goals, but I felt content. I can honestly say I was confident and happy with how I looked.
But during this time I stopped caring. I had too much on my plate and working out was the least of my concerns.
You can’t keep running on an empty, unfed, depressed, lothargic, sleep-deprived tank. You just can’t. And I figured that out one night after a fight with Kanan. I was either going to give up and start over again with my life (which ultimately would solve nothing), or I was going to figure out a positive way to get through this difficult time and actually make my life better. I had also put on about twenty pounds during the last year or so, and I can honestly say this was the first time that I did not like how I looked. That didn’t help my mood.
I decided to start working out again – one hour a day, six days a week in the early morning, just for me. The only time I had was 5am, before work. I was anything but a morning person, so it was a struggle to get out of bed every day – I was living by the mantra: “If you think you don’t have enough hours in the day, wake up earlier.” Some weeks I’d work out, get ready, go to one job during the day, then another job at night and wake up and do it again and again. It was hard, but I knew my dedication would eventually pay off. It took about two years of consistency in my workout schedule before I actually started to enjoy the early morning. Now it is the most treasured time of my day. The quiet time to myself with my coffee. I read, I blog, I workout, I listen to podcasts. No one is awake, I don’t have to be social, and I love it. But let me emphasize this: It took literal YEARS before this routine became easy. And my husband still complains about my early-morning alarms. But I knew the investment in myself would pay off in infinite ways, and it has.
I knew that I didn’t want to join a gym. I couldn’t afford it, and at the time I had zero confidence working out around other people. I had been doing several at-home Pilates videos, but wanted some challenge and variety, so I started searching on YouTube and found Cassey Ho and her Vlog: Blogilates. Her channel has a huge variety of videos, and from an entrepreneurial standpoint I look up to her very much. So I would quietly wake up, sneak out to the living room with my yoga mat and do enough of her videos to take up an hour. After a couple months of this I discovered she had a calendar app that I could download for a dollar a month that would plan all of my workouts for me, and this was a game-changer. I could wake up, click on the day in my calendar, and there would be a list of four or five video links to complete that day that all focused on a certain muscle group. I could even check each of them off after completing – together they’d take about an hour a day to do. It was perfect. I felt challenged by her mixture of fun, upbeat cardio mixed with Pilates, and her personality is so positive and inspiring.
After settling in to this workout routine for a year, I had noticed an improvement in all areas of my life but Kanan did not understand it. He said that I looked fine before, and that I was already so busy that it didn’t make sense to get less sleep and do more things. It discouraged me a lot. I felt like I was improving my mental health, and my physical health to the immediate detriment of my relationship. But what about the long-term benefit? He felt that I was working out instead of spending time with him – that I was prioritizing me over us. And in a way, I was. To this day I’m so glad that I stubbornly chose me – sometimes even those the closest to you won’t understand the changes you make to become a better person. Ultimately, I understood that investing in myself would cause positive changes to ripple into every area of my life, including our relationship, far into the future. So I kept going. Often times without the encouragement or support of my husband. This is hard to talk about, but I think it’s important. You will not always have a cheerleader. If you feel in your heart that you need to do something that inspires you to be better, you should do it. There’s usually a reason why you get those feelings that drive you, and eventually your choices will make sense to others that do truly care about you.
Shortly into my second year doing Blogilates workouts, Cassey Ho announced she was launching a program called PIIT 28. I was hesitant to sign up because unlike the $1 per month I had paid for the last year, this program would cost me around $100, but it did include a meal plan, and tons of workouts. I eventually came to the conclusion that this was more than fair for all the content she already provides us – I had access to varied and planned workouts for literally $12 total the previous year. So I signed up. If you are looking to lose weight, gain strength, and learn to meal-plan, this is a program I highly recommend. It included all my daily workouts – each only 28 minutes of high intensity interval training I could do at home with no equipment except for a mat and my phone. An easy-to-use app designed specifically for this program made it simple to complete, and a detailed weekly meal plan with shopping lists and healthy recipes eased me into the idea of healthier eating. You can choose from an omnivorous plan, a vegetarian plan, or a Vegan plan – all are gluten and refined-sugar free. I chose the vegan meal plan option, which changed my life.
At this point I now had physique goals. I wanted to lose weight. I had gained strength during the last year of doing Pilates six days a week, and had lost about ten pounds, but I wanted to lose about ten more. And I wanted to see if Veganism was really something I could sustain as a lifestyle. 28 days later, after sticking to the Vegan meal plan and the workout routine, I had reached my goal weight, and had decided to be Vegan forever. It’s astonishing how trying new things, even for a short time can change everything. In that next year I kept up with the Blogilates calendar and ended up doing two more cycles of PIIT 28, versions 2.0 and 3.0, just to see how fit I could get, and because I truly enjoyed it.
At this point it was early 2017. Kanan and I had gotten engaged the previous fall, and I knew we would be eloping in September of 2018. I had lost the weight; I was eating delicious Vegan food and meal-prepping every week. I had opened my business, and things were extremely busy, but going very well. My plans were beginning to fall into place, but I had hit a fitness plateau. I was skinny, which bothered me. I thought that after losing weight, my body would look how I had envisioned it would, but when active my body has a tendency to look long and lanky, not toned and muscular. With the weight loss, I had also lost all my curves, which were minimal to begin with. I decided that at this point the only way for me to achieve my ideal body type would be for me to actually define what that type was, and for me to hire someone to help me get there. At this point my business was doing well enough for me to invest in my personal fitness, so I chose to bring in a professional. And that’s when an overwhelming number of my clients introduced me to Rebel Fitness, and my (now) close friend and gym-owner Katie Berrey.
I had posted a very specific set of requirements on my Facebook page. I was searching for a personal trainer – female, experienced in Vegan nutrition with actual qualifications. Most of my clients all recommended the same person: Katie, but there were also two others. So to be fair I emailed them all, and two of them seemed to be good matches for me, personality-wise. I was trying to choose between the two, and then Katie did that thing that few business-owners do: she emailed me back and told me she’d be the best. And what some might consider over-confidence I considered bad-ass female-power, and a quality I look for in mentors and friends, so I went in for a consultation.
From that day on, Katie has been my fitness person. Just like you have a skin person, a hair person, an accountant, a dentist, a mechanic – Katie is my fitness person. Since I make my living by specializing in a trade, I try to support local business, but I also understand that I am not a specialist in everything, but other people are. That’s what they’re there for, to help you. That is literally their job, and most of the time they love it because they chose it. My point is, if you want results in any specialty, there is someone out there who’s passion it is to help you, so find them. And if they’re your person, then you’ll grow friendships, business connections, and community connections. It’s amazing to me how strong women are, and how great we are at building community. Not to discount the work that amazing men do, but to have a network of women you can call on for anything and everything, that’s something invaluable.
I started working out with Katie in May of 2017, and almost two years later, I’m still working with her because my goals are always changing. That’s how life is, and that’s certainly how fitness is. For the first sixteen months we trained specifically for the body-type I wanted to have for my wedding – I wanted to build muscle. So I trained with her two to three days a week, spent the other days doing at-home workouts she had planned for me, and took one rest day. I did very little cardio (basically none aside from warmups) and focused on weight lifting. When I first started, I couldn’t lift a 50 pound barbell without struggling – a lot. Now 50 pounds is easy – too easy. With dedication, you can achieve most goals. And I think that’s one reason why I started to love fitness so much. Watching your hard work pay off is encouraging, and having guidance to help you get there is key. During this time I also worked with Katie to make sure my Vegan nutrition was on point. Since finishing my last round of PIIT 28 I do not count calories, or macros. I just eat healthy, Vegan food (and sometimes junk food) when I’m hungry, and meal prep so it’s easy to eat well. I’ll occasionally challenge myself with no processed food or sugar, but aside from that, I just eat.
During that time I had an elective surgery and I was able to recover, heal from it, and get back most of my strength within about six months. There’s a lot to be said about maintaining a healthy lifestyle – you are a lot more equipped to deal with physical and mental demands.
This brings us to post-wedding – the last four months. After I got back from our honeymoon, I decided that I needed more variety in my workout routine to keep me motivated, so I signed myself up for a half marathon. First I did only Pilates, then only weight-training, and now I had decided to start running, something I’ve never excelled at. When I started training, I couldn’t run a half mile without stopping. Currently I’m up to six miles without rest, and I can honestly say that next week when I move on to seven miles, I’ll do just fine. You can train your body to do almost anything if you have a plan. In addition to running three times a week, I also etched out special time in my schedule to go to two or three Pilates classes per week, train with Katie at the gym once a week, and do at least two more lifting sessions each week that she plans for me. This means that I work out for about eight to nine hours a week, and I couldn’t be happier with my new routine. It’s well rounded; it makes me happy, and it keeps me interested. I’ll do this for at least three more months before I reassess and possibly change my routine again.
As the years have passed I learn more about my dreams and my capabilities. My husband and I sometimes still disagree over my jam-packed schedule, but I think he’s realizing that the actual process of shaping the life I dream of gives me joy, and therefore I’m able to live a more positive life. Implementing an active and healthy lifestyle is the foundation that I’ve used to give me strength to create, sustain momentum, and move forward.