10 things I've learned from working in health and fitness

This year will mark the 8th year since I've been a fitness instructor. I've worked in gyms teaching everything from step to spin to yoga and as a personal trainer, a gal at the front desk, an assistant coordinator, a weightroom supervisor--you name it, I've done it. No I've learned a lot from all those hours spent in the spots we go to sweat, which I'd like to share with you in list form today. 


1. You can't judge a book--or a body--by its cover.  

The people who look the "healthiest" or "fittest" aren't necessarily either. I have learned that what we see in magazines and on the interwebs, offered up as "fit" and "healthy" are extremely narrow ideas about the concepts. 

2. We can crush goals. 

Set realistically, we can do some pretty amazing things if we set our minds to them. First push-up, or pull-up, or maybe muscle-up on your wish list? I get to see people get their firsts all the time in the gym--and that is pretty sweet. Hard work does pay off. 

3. The work inside the gym should make you better beyond it. 

We spend one hour of our day a few days a week in the walls of the gym, but we live our lives in the other 23 of those days. Our routines ought to make us better humans and leave us feeling like we've filled up the tank. It's our arena to break ourselves down and remake ourselves stronger. It's a place where we can test ourselves, challenge ourselves, and learn about ourselves. It's a spot for taking care of ourselves, and not just physically. 

4. We train people, not body parts. 

It's easy to think about our training as targeted at this or targeted at that, but at the end of the day, everyone in a gym is a unique person. They have their own values and goals and issues and strengths. They come with limiting beliefs unique to themselves, and part of the work of getting healthy means you need to help them challenge those beliefs--at times gently and at times with a firm reminder that they deserve the most from themselves. At the end of the day, I care about how I make a person feel and what I add to their life--and that requires me to think about a lot more than just their PRs and body comp. 

5. Successful people have a "why". 

It's Simon Sinek who talks about connecting with your why. I've thought a lot about this in terms of business, but it applies to making sure we are successful in the health and fitness arena, too. The people who stick with their exercise routines are the ones who do it for a reason that keeps them motivated, whether they cite that reason or not. It might be the need to set a good example for kids, or it might be the drive to always seek out improvement, but there's something that gets--and keeps--the most successful folks going. 

6. Real trainers are better than perfect trainers. 

My tendency to be hard on myself can extend to my choice of work, at times with myself thinking that I should have a perfect body if I hope to work in the health and fitness field. What I've realized in time, however, is that rather than our "flaws" representing strikes against us, they can serve as assets. Rather than masquerading as having all of our sh*t together, being where we are with acceptance sets an example for those interested in doing the same. I know that having struggled with my body image and disordered eating gives me unique insight and perhaps makes me more relatable to the people I work with. There should be no pressure to be perfect, just pressure to be our best and own where we are at. 

7. Healthy looking people can be really unhealthy

This goes along with my first point, but takes it a step further. Some of the habits I've seen undertaken in the name of a "healthy" looking body blow my mind. Obsessing over food and training is not the kind of healthy I want to promote.  Not drinking water for days to achieve a certain aesthetic should mean that that aesthetic represents something unhealthy and stupid, but it's quite the opposite. I call for common sense when it comes to what we do in the name of "health"--and remind you that there's always more than meets the eye. 

8. There is more than one way to be healthy and fit and happy. 

Every single one of us is different, and that means that every single one of us might have a different path to their best place. What works for one person might be a terrible idea for another. There is not a black and white answer to the questions we usually wish there was. Carbs will make you fat, but carbs are good for you. Calorie counting is inaccurate, but calorie counting might help bring accountability to eating for you. Cardio might wear you down, or it might be the perfect stress relief for you. Health ought to be something we all take the time to define for ourselves. 

9. What gets you in the door is not that important. 

Wanting to get toned, wanting to lose weight, wanting to run a marathon, wanting a six pack--all goals that motivate people off the couch. And whatever that motivation is, it doesn't matter too much to me. I've read lots of CrossFit articles that seem to push the "hot body" as the reason to give the sport a go. And while I wish people would start exercising because they want to build a healthy relationship with their body, I think that the magic that happens in the gym when we start to see what we are capable of transcends those goals. If something is empowering, it will be so whether we do it in the name of body love or abs. 

10. Exercising should be fun. 

There has to be something lovely about it. It should make you feel alive. Maybe it's the people you see when you get to your workout spot. If you don't love what you're doing, you should let it go. There are endless ways to be active, life is short, and our time is precious. Make sure the things you do on a routine basis bring you joy. 


Health, happiness, and sweating, friends!