Contrary to what people may believe, trainers don’t just pop out of a magic gym bag one day, ready to bestow our fitness knowledge and motivation on the world.
My story of becoming a trainer isn’t a very linear one, but I think it may speak to you. And that’s because as a child, a teen or even as a young adult, I never dreamed of becoming a trainer. In fact, the beginning of my story was almost entirely the opposite.
I was lucky to grow up in a very active family. We played outside a ton, spent hours on our trampoline and went on lot of walks as a family. I never had to think about exercise when I was a child because I was homeschooled until I was fourteen. And then, when I was enrolled in public school in Grade 9, I was introduced to what the school system calls PE.
Wow. What a wake-up call. They wanted me to… run? I hated PE.
Seriously, hate might not even be a strong enough word to describe the dread and angst I felt every day leading up to our gym time. I sucked at any sport our teacher made us do that required a basic level of hand-eye coordination. I hated being sweaty, and I couldn’t stand the burning feeling of blood in my lungs when I had to sprint.
PE was such a negative experience for me — you can imagine my relief when I didn’t have to do it anymore in Grade 12. That year, I was able to maintain my weight by walking 30 minutes to and from school every single day and maintaining an extremely low-calorie diet obsessively.
When I graduated high school that year, I decided to take a gap year. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. As all of my friends left to start their lives with purpose, I stayed behind and starting doing restaurant work. I stopped getting my daily walks in, started drinking and going out, partying and wearing far skimpier clothes… your typical 18-year old post-high school lifestyle.
Imagine my surprise when all of a sudden the body I never had to think about changed.
My jeans stopped fitting overnight and I became super uncomfortable, avoiding tight clothes and opting for looser options. It changed my entire self-image, because 18 year-old Jenna was very image-conscious and it really affected the confidence level I’d had before then. I’m sure many of you have also experienced this. It’s awful!
So, I reluctantly started working out with my friend Leah. She was super into it but all I would do was cardio. I wasn’t confident enough to try any of the other exercises. Still, it was better than nothing
A short time after that, I started taking some general classes in university with the idea that I’d eventually major in psychology. Serendipitously, I got a job working at the front desk of a pilates studio and suddenly I was exposed to a new form of working out. I got free classes there and was spending my days at work watching people work out. It really motivated me to get into it too, so I started cashing in on those free classes and got super into pilates for a year or so.
Then my ADD took over, so I started working out in a gym again in earnest. I harassed the trainers there for free tips, and they generously gave me pointers and helped me gain a little more confidence. I was so awkward at first and felt like everyone was staring at me or rolling their eyes at all the things I was doing wrong. But I kept trying, and eventually was doing enough exercise that I was able to maintain my weight again. I felt so much healthier!
As exercising started to become more natural, I decided to apply to the kinesiology program instead of psychology because it was equally science-based and I was interested in learning more about the human body. After I was accepted into the program, I was horrified to learn that one of my first semester classes required me to run a 10K. Here I was years later, back where I started… at school being forced to run!
I was terrified. My headspace at this time was super negative, and I convinced myself that I’d never be able to finish. Luckily, my friend Taren promised to run it with me. And we did it! While I don’t remember the exact time I finished in, I know it was about 90 minutes. Yikes. But that didn’t matter at the time, because the satisfaction and confidence boost I got from achieving something I never thought possible (and hated!) ended being a huge defining moment for me.
When I completed the 10k, I had the realization that forcing yourself to do things that feel uncomfortable always pays off in the end. Fitness is a transformative tool! It’s an amazing way to use your body to confront self-doubt.