My Fitness Journey
Everyone has a story.
Who we are, what we do, and how we view the world is both a result, and continuation of this story.
Our story can be a journey, an epic, an escape, a mission, or a reality T.V. show. When we share these stories, we realize how unique, yet similar each one of us are with our challenges, triumphs, fears, and joys.
Part of my story is embracing health, fitness, and wellness as a large part of my life, and helping others do the same. Notice I said “part” of my own story. “Part 2” to be exact.
Part 1 is a little different. Here’s that story.
The health and fitness laws that govern being a kid are centered on “Playing is fun” and “Dessert is awesome.” No child embraced this mantra more than I did, growing up in Oregon City, Oregon. While I was merely a participant in the former, I was a zealot of the latter.
While all of my friends shared this ethos, the unfairness of metabolic life started rearing its ugly head at about age 10. Long story short, my friends started to get skinny and lean, I started to get chubby.
It wasn’t that I lacked physical activity. I played sports year round. We had no electronics in the house, and idle hands were the devil’s playground. Physical activity was both an expectation and part of daily life in the Klika household.
It wasn’t that we didn’t have a culture of wellness with our nutrition either. I grew up in the house of JERF (just eat real food). We grew most of our vegetables and fruit. My mom canned so we had them rear round. My mom cooked every meal from scratch, and we didn’t have a microwave until I was 13. Just like with physical activity, there was an expectation for the way we ate.
With such a great physical activity and nutrition regiment, how could I fail?
Becoming overweight at any age is often a downward spiral of less than stellar genetics, poor exercise and nutrition habits, consequent embarrassment, and a defeated psyche. While I was active and ate well, I fell victim to the rest of the process.
I was never obese, but I didn’t have the early blooming, muscle popping, performance-enhancing genes that many of my friends did. The waistline of my pants cut into my belly, I couldn’t climb the rope in gym class, and I moved with the swiftness of an injured sloth. My friends and foes alike were quick to remind me of all the above.
While all of my friends were skinny, strong, and fast, I was chubby, weak, and slow.
As the venomous pubescent hormones took charge, the problem was compounded. Kids were meaner and I was more embarrassed. I began to feel defeated. I actually withdrew from many of the sports I liked. I got an asthma note from my doctor so I wouldn’t have to do the mile run in PE. I had horrible Osgood Schlatters syndrome, a growing pain that affects the knees, so I cited that as an excuse for not being active.
Meanwhile, this frustrated, defeated angst created an unhealthy relationship with food. While my house pretty much only had healthy choices, I’d figure out ways to sneak stuff. In middle school I was able to spend more time away from home. When at friends houses, I’d binge on pizza, candy, chips, or anything else I could when I had the chance. The result was more weight gain, more ridicule, more feeling of defeat.
As I said before, activity and nutrition were part of our DNA at home. It killed my parents to see me go through this downward spiral. They were willing to do anything to help me. My mom would wake up and go walking or jogging with me in the morning. She’d search for healthy recipes to have even better choices available around the house. The problem, however, wasn’t in the choices I had available. It was that I had essentially given up.
I was going to be the chubby kid for life. I hated the idea, but it appeared to be the cards I was dealt. Chubby kids often become the class clown, honing a sharp whit as a defense mechanism against the constant barrage of teasing, bullying, and other mean spirited hijinks. I followed suit.
In my current message on health and wellness, I often talk about your “why” being the most important factor in creating life change. With a strong enough “why” you can and will do anything.
For me, it came down to a pair of shoes.
I was about 14 now and I wanted a pair of the British Knights shoes that all the other boys were wearing. They were $40, which was quite a bit more than my parents were willing to pay for that sort of thing. In a fateful stroke of genius, my parents took the opportunity to offer me a challenge. $1 towards the shoes for every lap I ran at the half -mile track next to my house.
Like Forest Gump, I started running. And running, and running. After a few months, I was churning out laps every day. I started to enjoy the time by myself, doing something I knew most others weren’t. I felt in control and I was moving in the right direction. Consequently, my weight started to move as well.
Puberty kicked in and I began to grow. Still no rippled muscles, but at least I was stretching out! This combined with the new commitment to exercise and consequent nutrition resulted in a new me. I wasn’t the frustrated, defeated chubby kid any more. I sat in the power seat and was in control of my destiny.
I kept running.
My life changed rapidly and dramatically between 9th and 10th grade. I went from not making sports teams my freshman year to starting my sophomore year. And, the #1 “why” behind all of teenage boy behavior… girls started talking to me!
Because they wanted too!!
This rapid change created a pretty stark pendulum swing in regards to my previous diet and exercise habits. In 1 year, I had leapt up the social hierarchy and I was determined to never go back. This went from being a positive change in my health to an unhealthy obsession that could only be described as male anorexia.
I felt that I literally held the reigns to my destiny as a fat kid, or a skinny kid. The notion of “I can control this” took over my life. I exercised obsessively and ate nearly nothing. The type A drive that helped me succeed in the classroom and sports created an obsession for control over my eating and exercise. I kept losing weight, separating myself as much as possible from returning to the “chubby kid”.
Amidst this struggle, during my junior year of high school I started to get interested in weight training. I was swimming and running every day, in addition to soccer practice and PE. While I didn’t want to gain weight, I did want to gain some muscle. My uncle was a well-known bodybuilder in Oregon, winning the “Mr. Oregon” title in the 80’s. I would go to the gym with him when I was young and watch him train.
As I got older, I’d always pester him about “write me a program to get buff.” He would always predicate the program he’d give me with “you gotta eat!” Combining what I had learned from him, and volumes and volumes of Muscle and Fitness articles, I started lifting weights. I loved it. I loved getting strong. I loved the intensity. I loved how I looked and felt. I loved all the different strategies for changing your body.
Lifting weights made me realize I had to eat. It made me realize that food is a pro-active means for being healthy and performing at your best. Slowly and cautiously, I was delivered from the extremes of near self –starvation and become a gym rat.
My senior year, I began to settle in to a healthy relationship with diet and exercise. Growing up in a tremendous culture of wellness combined with my own life transformation, struggles, and triumphs, motivated me to pursue health and fitness not only as a lifestyle, but also as a career.
Right now, I get to do what I dreamt about doing as I left high school for college. I get to help people of all ages, sexes, and abilities take control of their life through health and wellness.
Exercise and nutrition fit in to my life now as my competitive advantage. It’s where I get my energy, focus, and drive. Exercise and nutrition now fuel the mission that once was a dream.
You see, everyone has as story. I share the prequel to my better-known story in order to hopefully help that one person that has lost the reigns, who feels out of control, or is obsessed with the need for total control.
Everyone has a chance at a sequel.