Work it Out: My Fitness Journey

Life is a jungle gym.

 

And I like monkeying around.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned lately is life isn’t linear.  This sounds obvious even as I write it, but over and over I’ve been surprised when my carefully laid plains deviate from the path I’ve plotted.  Things change – you grow up.  You learn new skills.  You have setbacks.  Life happens.

Plan changes have happened in all aspects of my life – career, relationships, fitness, etc. – and I’m sure you’ve experienced the same.  I gt a lot of questions about how I began competing, so today’s Work It Out is my fitness journey.  My jungle gym.

sprint2table-workitout

Before I get into it, I want to be very clear that this is my path.  I’ve done things that were right and that were wrong.  Some are tender subjects; they were part of my journey.  I know you all have your own stories.  I simply submit that I hope no matter where you are in your journey, that you stay true to yourself and have FUN.  No regrets. 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I love a competition.  Sports, spelling bees,  pie eating… you name it, I’m up for the challenge.  It’s how I’m wired.  This has taken me on many a fun ride in my life.

Related to fitness, I have tried just about any sport you can think of.  I was lucky to have parents who encouraged me to sign up for all sorts of things – from ice skating to horseback riding to softball.  Softball stuck – I still play every season!

softball

Years later I still morn the day that bat broke.

 

In my college years, I wasn’t very active unless you count partying and working.  I was a bartender.  I smoked, drank too much, and ate crap.  Not surprisingly, I gained the “freshman 15″ (and the sophomore 15) and was always tired.  When my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer something clicked in my head.  His disease wasn’t related to unhealthy living; he had actually lost a ton of weight through diet and exercise a few years prior and never smoked a day in his life.

The message that life is short came loud and clear to me.  While my dad was getting treatments he continued light exercise to keep strength that allowed him to turn 6 months into 4.5 years with the disease.  Through his example, I was inspired to clean up my act a bit and started workout out casually.  It wasn’t a total turnaround… but it was a start.

no one wins

Which beer shall I drink first…

 

Fast forward a few years and I discovered a new passion – roller derby.  I only wish my dad had been around to see that!  I had a blast, met some really cool people, and skated about 12 hours a week.  It was thrilling.  I’d found a sport I loved again!

It also proved to myself that it is impossible to out exercise a bad diet.  I was doing intense workouts nearly daily but gaining weight.  I am not saying I was “fat,” but I wasn’t healthy and, more importantly, I didn’t feel good.

derby

 

Looking at my unhealthy habits, I decided it was time for a cleanse.  It was the derby off-season and I took the opportunity to give my body a break from getting beat up (literally and figuratively).  21 days of clean eating was amazing for me.  I reset some habits, had boundless energy again, and I learned to love running.

That Thanksgiving I ran a 10K with my baby sister and my mom!

Gobble Jog

 

Then came a new season of derby.  I was still doing really well with healthy living and had come back for the next season with more energy and passion and ever.  Whatever was in stow, I was ready to jump on it.  Life had other plans.  

I broke my jaw during an expo bout (bout = a roller derby game).  It was miserable.  I looked like Jay Leno and it cost me a pretty important trip in my new job.

 

6 weeks later my jaw was as good as new but I decided it was time to find something a little safer.  Plus, I’d lost a TON of weight from not being able to eat solids, which was not good for playing a contact sport.  I looked unhealthy, and I’d basically forgotten how to eat.  All I’d been able to have was soup, pureed oatmeal, and smoothies!

I struggled with the aftermath of that injury for a while.  Rather than derby, I ran all the time.  I was faster and going longer than ever, but – even though I was eating – my new teeny body couldn’t keep up.  When you are at a deficit and continue to workout at the level you were before… well, you are just going to get skinnier (read: my mom was worried sick).

I almost didn’t post this pic. It pains me to look at it… but it’s what happened.

 

Unrelated to that, my knee decided to give out.  I got half a mile into a run and was in so much pain I had to stop.  The doctor told me my ACL was hanging on by a thread and if I wanted to run distance again I’d need to have surgery.  That may have been the best thing that could have happened to me.

 

Time for a new hobby!  Instead of going under the knife, I decided to go the route of building.  Body building.  If I could build up my quads, my knee wouldn’t bother me in daily activity and running short distances.  I’d always loved lifting weights and had done a round or two of P90X, so it seemed to be the perfect next bar to grab.

Two and a half years ago I met with my trainer the first time and started down the path of something that would forever change my life.  Lifting feels like it did when I fell in love with softball – I look forward to going to the gym, I want to talk strategy with anyone who will listen… it’s my passion!

Lisa and me at Palmetto – both Top 5!

Since then, I’ve gained 10 solid pounds of muscle, 2 pounds of  boob, and competed in 2 figure competitions.  Much to my surprise I placed in both!  Rounds 3 and 4 are in 3 and 4 weeks… they are on very competitive stages, but I’m excited just to have the experience.  I’ve been watching the success of others around me and am stoked (do people still say that?) for the off season and a sold year of building.

I feel great: inspired, focused, and having fun.

 

Fitness looks like a million different things.  What you do isn’t important, as long as it’s something you love and something that contributes to your health.  Don’t be afraid to change your course as you evolve.  Yoga, walking, lifting, cross-fitting… whatever.  Find something you are passionate about and embrace it.

Having been both active and inactive to my detriment, I can promise you that finding balance and the thing that turns you on will make all the difference.  That high, that endorphin rush, is sheer joy.  It’s worth it to make time for it.

YOU are worth it.

***

Need some inspiration?  Check out this post full of inspiring athletes from all walks of life.

Have you always been “healthy,” or was there a turning point for you?

What brings you joy?

 

Comments

  1. says

    Great reminder–and yes–it looks different for each of us–and varies through our own lives. I am definitely in the rebuilding stage as I try to rehab my hip injury but am trying to get to the point where I can work towards being strong once again.

  2. says

    Thank you SO much for sharing, Laura! I feel like I learned so much about you, since I (sadly) haven’t been following you since you started your fitness competition journey. I love what you say about it not mattering what you do or how you look, as long as you love what you’re doing and it’s making you healthier. Sometimes it takes a little experimentation (I wasn’t adventurous enough for roller derby, for sure, but I was “that kid” who got cut from the 7th grade volleyball team and stuck to dancing from then on because it was the only thing I was good at). I never would have imagined that I’d find such personal strength and solace in running, but now I can’t imagine my life without it. If only everyone could find what you find in building and what I find in running – we’d be a much healthier and happier world. Thanks for the link, too!

    • Laura says

      Thanks Megan! I don’t know that I’d ever pieced it all together before… you didn’t miss much. ;)

      I loved your blog post, too. A big boost to read!

  3. says

    Wow, what a read!

    Seriously, that was so great to hear and learn from Laura :) From reading your about section once or twice I never took into account the journey behind it. It’s something we don’t tend to think of – we see the face value and assume things have always been that way. It was so great to learn how you first got into lifting, what caused it, what inspired the first spark.

    It truly is a ‘journey’, a progression along a path as we learn more and grow more :)

    Thank you for sharing this, hugely inspiring! :D

  4. says

    I knew this would be amazing! Loved each and every word of it…in fact, I read it TWICE!! :D And your sign off is perfect! It’s all about what makes YOU happy…what brings you JOY…and what keeps propelling you forward in this life! I’ve had many turning points in my life…too many to count I think at times…and I may just be in one right now. We’ll see. I must admit, until this year, I never fully grasped the concept of life not being linear. I think that’s why I tend to have such a hard time adjusting to change sometimes. It’s not that I want to control everything, but I’m just not prepared for detours! But life cannot be mapped out…and that’s a GOOD thing…the excitement and adventure of the unknown is what makes it fun…if you can embrace it. And you most definitely have, my friend! Like I told you last night…your fire, your passion, your compassion…DAILY inspiration! Love you more than peanut butter! 8O yes, it’s true! Lol

    • Laura says

      I told you it was good bathroom reading! ;)

      Seriously, I appreciate your perspective. I love how you say the “adventure of the unknown.” So very, very true.

  5. says

    Your story is similar to mine, but I skipped the boozing at college part (never been a big drinker!). I fell in love with running but my bad knee forced me to take up weight lifting… and we know how that story ended up ;) I love that we both lift for competitive reasons, but in a completely different way. Probably a good thing because I’m uber competitive and would want to kick your butt :P

  6. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Laura, I absolutely LOVED to read it! I had the same story with my Dad and even if it is desperately sad, it does turn things into perspective.
    I did not only party, I did also eat and exercise in a disordered way for MANY years, and today, at age 35 I can slowly start to see my benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.
    You are so right with everything you say, if we force ourselves to do something we are not passionate about, it’s not going to work and impossible to maintain.
    You are such a huge inspiration for me and I love to read (stalk :-)) your journey every day!

  7. says

    Absolutely inspiring story Laura- and something really motivating not only to me, but others out there. Great to see this passion in lifting now, and cannot wait to see how you continue on, not only in the upcoming 2 competitions but moving forward- who knows what will be next!

  8. says

    Great story! I used to be a couch potato my entire life, until I turned 30 and started to exercise regularly. During the past few years I’ve tried many different activities, and I’ve learned that I enjoy group fitness classes the most. I love that I can switch off my brain and simply mimic the instructor’s moves. I hate counting reps!

  9. says

    This is amazing and inspiring. I am so glad you wrote this post. Is it creepy that I was wondering how you got into weight lifting and figure competitions?! I have not always been healthy either. I was always active growing up (my sport was basketball) but you are so right about the inability to out-exercise a bad diet. Can’t do it. College was my turning point. In my third year I was so unhappy: I gained weight but I was ultimately not the confident girl I wanted to be. Fast forward to now where I feel happy and healthier after learning to “eat clean” and finding a passion for running and Crossfit. Wow sorry for this novel :)

  10. says

    I loved reading this and hearing all about your journey. I already knew bits and pieces from other posts and this just tied it all together. Seriously this is one of my favorite posts from you (that and No Shit because you cuss a lot and it makes me happy).

    I’m a smidge competitive too (oops) and I don’t see it as a bad thing either. Instead I try to embrace what I’m doing, give it my all and find happiness in it, whether it be group fitness classes, weight lifting, running or participating in Tough Mudders. I also find I operate best when I switch things up exercise wise, every few years or so. If not, I get into a rut and no longer really enjoy it. Right now, I’m in the dying to get back into the gym rut. It didn’t open last week. It’s open now, but I have working lunch meetings every day, which means ‘eh food and no workout. I’m thinking some evening runs might be in order and I might just bring my own food to today’s lunch meeting. Sounds like someone I know….you!

    Your dedication and your drive is always an inspiration to me, along with your balls to the wall approach. That’s right up my alley, for so many reasons. Thank you.

    • Laura says

      Meghan, you are not a smoke-blower so I rally appreciate the compliment. :)

      You’re competitive?! LOL! Once day we shall hang out and compete with #strangebutgood creations and mimosas.

  11. says

    I’ve gone through phases with healthy…. Mostly always been healthy, but there’s been bouts of unhealthiness one way or the other. Glad you’ve found your balance as have I. :)

  12. says

    I loved reading about your journey, you are so inspiring! This is a great message and one everyone needs to remember. Whenever someone says to me I’d love to be fit but don’t like to run, I just tell them that yes I run to stay fit but there are PLENTY of ways to get fit and there is just no reason to do something you don’t like to do. Find something that is fun and you will stick with it! Congrats on your competitions and good luck with you upcoming comps!

    • Laura says

      It amazes me how many people think they HAVE to run to be fit. You just have to move – doesn’t matter how. :)

      Thank you!

  13. says

    Love hearing about your journey! I think it is good to keep trying different things and switching gears when you lose your passion for what you’ve been doing (or you get injured!).

  14. says

    Wow. This might be my all time favorite post from you. I loved reading about your journey! I have pretty much always been active, but not competitive. Started with gymnastics and hated that. Ended up in ballet at age 10 and did that until I could no longer stand taking pre-professional classes with 16-18 year olds. I used to think I was eating healthy, or mostly healthy. Baked Cheetos are healthy right? And diet sodas. I feel fitter and healthier at nearly 40 than when I was in my 20’s. Love change!

    • Laura says

      Wow – thank you SO much! It’s funny, I always thought I’d be less healthy as i got older, but it’s only getting better. There’s a lot to be said for life lessons/maturity!

  15. says

    It’s definitely a journey. I think my turning point came around 8-9 years ago, when I realized that I didn’t have to be chubby and out of shape. I went a long time thinking my body was just stubborn, but then I realized there were actual things I could do, things that I enjoyed, and be healthy doing them.

  16. says

    Thank you for sharing. These posts are the hardest to write, but they make us love you even more! I am still on my fitness journey, but I feel that I am really starting to “get it” and make healthy {for me} choices much more often than before.

  17. says

    Laura, seriously what a remarkable story. I love reading about your journey and it truly motivates me to keep going. Life really does throw you some SHIT but most of the time the SHIT sparkles and turns into some magical life changing events. I always say things happen for a reason, and your story showcases that. I was not healthy at all, I hit my freshmen 15 and became vegan to lose weight <—Wrong Reason. Because of that, I learned about healthy eating as I was forced to eat more vegetables so in a way it was a blessing for me. I also used to run for hours on a treadmill before I met my husband who got me to lift weights which changed my life! Thanks for a great story Laura and I can not WAIT to see your fitness journey in three-four weeks! Lots of Love Your Way C

  18. says

    I loved reading your story Laura! Everyone has different fitness journeys to get to where they are currently, and I really liked reading yours. I’ve always believed that fitness is more about keeping active than doing specific workouts or exercises, whether people prefer running, body-building style weightlifting, participating in sports, or whatever else. It’s also fluid – our preferences and lifestyles can change over time. It’s hard to say where my ‘turning point’ was. I started working out in university because I wanted to lose weight, which continued through the ED. It’s only probably in the last year and half-two years that I started exercising and keeping active simply because I love it and it makes me feel good. So…two turning points, I suppose?

    • Laura says

      Fluid is the perfect word! A healthy lifestyle only works if it’s something you enjoy and that serves you… and that certainly changes over time.

  19. says

    LOVE this Laura & to learn so much about you! You have definitely gone thru a lot & come out with so much knowledge & a healthier person too!

    OH YES< I have done different things for sure & was unhealthy too before I learned the right way to eat for me.. like you said – it is all about finding what is right for you – not for anyone else but you! :) LOVE LOVE LOVE this!

    May I ask what cancer your dad got.. something going on in my family right now, that is why I am curious… HUGS!

    What makes me happy – family & friends for sure. Weights for sure… but deep down – still working on it…

    • Laura says

      Jody, you have been such an inspiration. Thank you!!!

      My dad has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Hope thing are ok in your family… happy to talk more if you need.

      Happiness is less a destination than something that occurs during the ride. Or so it seems to be for me. :)

  20. says

    I’ve never been “unhealthy” since I grew up walking everywhere but I was never an “athlete” I discovered running as I was settling into my “adult life”

    Roller derby looks so bad ass!

    Good luck at the competition!

  21. says

    Loved reading about your fitness journey! There was a time in my life that I was vegetarian and didn’t really exercise. Ironically, I thought being vegetarian also meant I was being healthy. Obv, I was wrong! When I got into high school, I was about 10-15 pounds heavier than I am now. It wasn’t until about mid-way through high school that I started to wise up by exercising regularly and making better food choices. I’ve stuck with that regime for all these years and I feel better than I ever did. It’s amazing what a little exercise and healthy eating can do for you!

    • Laura says

      It is amazing! I think we all struggle when we’re younger trying to find what is right for us. There’s no “one” path!

  22. says

    I love this post, and reading about your journey. I’m saddened reading about your dad, I lost mine when I was 12 and still miss him more than words can say. He would be so proud of the journey you have taken, and happy that you have adopted a strange but good healthy lifestyle that works for you and makes you happy!

  23. says

    Such an amazing story you have! I love reading about it :-), It is good to recognize the past and what has happened in your life and accept and move on or embrace. It just makes things so much easier. You are a great example!

  24. Natasha says

    What an amazing post! Quite the journey, I am on a similar one myself and this was huge motivation. I love your blog and I think you are so truly beautiful and inspiring. So, thank you!

  25. Sara says

    Thanks for sharing! I love to hear about everyone’s different journeys. I must say, you look healthier now…you have much more of a glow than in your earlier pictures (and no, not just from self tanner…a glow from the inside!) :D

  26. says

    How neat to see your full journey, Laura – I never knew you actually ran before! Look at the place you’re in now…how neat to see that change and how you have learned (as we all have) to treat your body better with each decision. Thanks for sharing more of your story!

    • Laura says

      Thank you! You are such a motivation – I love your constantly positive outlook. I always feel good after reading your posts. :)

  27. says

    You’re such an inspiration g irlie! I hope to one day try to compete – just to say that I’ve done it and held myself to that figure competitiion discipline!

  28. says

    I love hearing your story and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it all at once – so thanks for sharing! It’s crazy to look back and see how one thing leads to another, but it’s also great proof that you can get to wherever it is you want to go. So proud of you and everything you have accomplished and will accomplish!

  29. says

    It was really inspiring to read your journey. I think a lot of people assume that what you see is what you get – so Laura looks like she’s in shape right now so she must have always been that way. So it’s really nice to see how you’ve evolved and more importantly why. Thanks for sharing!

  30. says

    Gosh, there’s so much to say! I feel like we all have our own journey’s towards health since health/fitness is not a one size fits all situation. There are so many factors involved in finding what works for you. I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve done. I’ve just added to it more and more as far as variety goes. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with my health. There have definitely been ups and downs along the way. Some I could control and some I couldn’t, but I think all of that makes us more aware and more educated on reading the signs for what is good for us. I’m so happy for you Laura!

    It is so strange to realize how long I’ve known you since I met you shortly after you healed up from breaking your jaw. Love you friend! xoxo

    • Laura says

      You have had such a great journey, too! I love seeing your progress, and how committed you are.

      Can’t wait to catch up soon. Love you too!

  31. says

    Love hearing your story!! I got way too skinny for a while b/c of my stomach issues and stuff. I continued to run too—stupid idea! I have pics of myself like you do that you are almost afraid to post and it makes you feel uncomfortable to look at. HOWEVER, you look awesome now!
    I had no idea that you had broken your jaw! You can’t even tell!

  32. says

    I absolutely LOVE this post!! I love that life isn’t linear and that you always have something new to learn & discover. My mom told me this weekend that she hasn’t seen me look this good EVER – how cool is that. I never thought I would get into lifting and I know I have you to thank for that. Can you imagine if I never got into blogging and we never met? Anyway, I can’t wait to see what the next 5-10 years hold, who knows what “crazy” thing I’ll try next!

    • Laura says

      That is so cool! My mom said something similar and it meant a lot. I have LOVED following your journey. It would be a sad day if we hadn’t met… who would have thought we’d be here now?! :) Here’s to many more adventures!!!

  33. says

    This is the kind of post that, on many blogs, I wouldn’t even click through to, because I’d know that awaiting me would be an underlying/latent story of continuing ED behaviour. The fact that your post is one purely of strength, growth, and happiness, is yet another reason why I’m proud to call you my food spouse. xo

    • Laura says

      Hannah, I always appreciate your honesty. It’s refreshing. And thank you – I’m proud to have you as my food spouse too!

  34. Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile says

    Loooove this post!! Thank you for sharing your story. You’re definitely inspirational! I went through something similar where I started running and then after a good year of that and a half marathon, I completely switched to lifting and never looked back. I’d love to compete one day!

  35. says

    This is such a great post–and I loved reading about your story!!

    I love how health/fitness looks different on everyone & people get to where they end up by different routes. Such a neat way to remind us all we all have our passions & that.is.okay. <3

    You look fab, sista!

  36. says

    I love the journey you have made – the lessons you have learned along the way, the trials and mistakes – so neat to read all of it. I think that you are a true inspiration not just to others who compete but to all who have loved a sport and for some reason left it – there are so many options out there!!!

  37. Angelee says

    Wow! So many similarities and so many differences… You’re right though, that we all have our own journeys. This comment would turn into a blog post itself if I wrote my journey, but let’s just says I am pretty sure I’ve finally reache my happy place… Where it looks like you have too! Keep rockin it out Laura!

  38. says

    wow girl, what a story! i can relate in a way. One thing leads to another then an injury and then another and finally, we find a balance, a passion, and LIFE! You’re battles have made you stronger, smarter, and one heck of a inspiration!

  39. sarah says

    Uhh I am SO all over this.
    Thanks for sharing! I loved reading it all.
    I actually thought I knew a lot about you…turns out, I didn’t!

    You (somehow) managed to out-do your usual , completely inspiring self today :).
    Xxx

  40. says

    You have such a great fitness story ! You have literally been all over the place,had up and downs, and you are doing great!

    PS- Good call on the ACL surgery, I blew both of mine out and had the surgery.. it’s a miserable one!

  41. says

    LOVE THIS! I have learned so much about you in this post. I cannot believe how tiny you are in that photo. I have a photo like that of myself from a few years ago and it pains me to look at it to. We’ve all had our own stories, ups, downs, and journeys, because that is life. But what is important is that you are happy now and loving what you are doing. Very inspiring and keep up the great work!

  42. says

    Girl you had us all worried sick! Im really glad you are doing well and feeling balanced ;) I need some exercise motivation fo real! lol. thanks :) love you sis!

  43. says

    LOVE this post. I don’t think you look super gross in the pic you didn’t want to post. Your arms had some muscle on them, and even though you were pretty thin there, you were still bordering on healthy — and the biggest thing was you weren’t obsessed with being that size and realized it wasn’t great for you. Definitely hear you on working out at a normal level with a deficit of food. I definitely ran through a few illnesses I shouldn’t have (oh hey, depression 20 lb weight loss). Glad you’re where you are at today!

    • Laura says

      I was hoping you’s see this one! I’m surprised you said that about the running pic though. I guess I know how I felt back then too. It wasn’t my best state. :)

  44. says

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Laura! It was a very interesting read :) I love that you played roller derby, too! I watched my first bout last year.
    Look at how far you’ve come! Do you think you’ll continue body building after your next competition coming up? Or switch it up for a while?

Trackbacks

  1. […] some muscle tone, but was underweight and had literally run my ass off.  I posted about my journey here so I won’t rehash.  What I will say (again) is that there is NOTHING you can’t […]

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