Meg’s Fitness Journey
December 15, 2013
When I was growing up, my mother liked to tell people that until I turned 9, there was not one single home movie that showed my entire body at the same time – I was THAT active. It was either my upper body or my lower body, my back or my front – I was jumping, skipping, hopping, twirling, spinning, a tiny whirling dervish of perpetual motion. This story was told in partial explanation for the huge bandages on my elbow or knee, the black eye, chipped tooth, splint or ace bandage. I climbed trees, dug holes, road my bike, jumped rope, roller skated. I would actually roller skate all the way to school and it was far, really far; it had to be 5 or 10 miles to school. In the snow. I’m kidding about the snow, but it was far. I would try anything and I did, as long as it made my body move. I didn’t care if I got hurt, that was just part of the process. I was determined and I was relentless in my pursuit of childish physical mastery. And then I got a pogo stick. OUCH!
I was a tiny bundle of energy and my mother would send me outside to run around the block to blow off some steam. This started as soon as I could walk, at least that’s what I remember. And since I began walking at 9 months, and I was very tiny for my age, I must have looked like an infant toddling around the street. This was the Midwest, however, in the late 50’s and 60’s and all of the neighbors knew each other so it was not as unusual as it would be today. Such were my illustrious beginnings as a runner. What started as a punishment actually became a reward – I didn’t know it at the time but the running, the moving, the exercising made me feel better and provided me with relief from the high tension and fear of my family life.
That was the beginning of my fitness journey. Actually, a better word would be “play.” I played; all the kids played. The difference between me and the other kids was that I played with a single-mindedness and focus that other children did not have. I learned that my body worked for me and that I could make it learn to do things and I got a huge amount of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment and worth from physical activity. This created a foundation that has served me my entire life.
When I got into Jr. High School and discovered gymnastics, I found a sport that was perfectly suited for me and I jumped right into it…literally. I was raised in a religious cult, and my parents would not allow me to engage in extracurricular activities but the gymnastics coach let me practice in secret with the team. I loved everything about gymnastics and began to carry myself and move like a gymnast. This, too, stuck with me for the rest of my life and to this day people comment on my posture. Even when I may lack inner confidence, my body, my external self has the confident posture of a dancer or a gymnast.
So as I got older, my body and physical activity continued to serve me. I looked confident, which I believe affected the way people treated me, and I felt better which provided me with emotional relief. I did not know it at the time, but I needed to exercise to keep depression at bay.
Unfortunately, the physical activity alone was not enough to fix my emotions and around the age of 16 I developed anorexia which was followed in my 20’s by alcoholism and drug abuse. Those were some dark years but when I came out on the other side, I accidentally discovered running again and it all went full circle. I had gotten out of rehab and I was going to massage school. I had no car and I was late for class so I started jogging down the street. My lungs filled and my limbs stretched and I fell in love with movement again.
I started jogging on a regular basis and ran my first marathon when I turned 40. I ran and ran and ran and boy did I looooove those endorphins. I NEEDED those endorphins. Running helped calm and relax me, it relieved stress and I sure needed relief! The problem was that I knew that I couldn’t keep running like that at my age and not ruin my joints. Plus, I started noticing that older female runners looked so stringy and I did NOT like that look. I needed to find something else.
Next chapter in my fitness journey began when I started working as a Personal Trainer and my best friend and colleague, Craig Valency, began training with me. I had been dabbling in weight training but didn’t fall in love with it until Craig started trying out his programs on us. I was hooked. AND I really wanted to put some muscle on my body but I had no idea how or what to eat. I was not active in my eating disorder but I was afraid of gaining weight and I had been living off of carrots and apples and pretzels. I learned that in order to build muscle I needed to eat protein so I began eating chicken and salmon. My eating habits were still pretty erratic but at least I was providing my body with nutrients.
Then, when I turned 50 a fellow trainer encouraged me to enter my first Figure Competition and after doing well in my first show I was hooked…again. I was in love with the discipline and the sacrifice. I was in love with the satisfaction that I got from working hard. I was in love with the changes that were happening to my body. I even had a love/hate relationship with the never-ending food prep! But more than anything, I was in love with the end result, the final glory of strutting onto the stage in a tiny sparkley bikini with high heels and a spray tan. No, actually, I don’t know what I love more, the end result or the process. Because, still, it is the process of training my body, the focus and effort, that provides me with emotional satisfaction and relief from the anxiety that still seems to reside with me on some level.
At this point, I decided to hire a trainer, Meriza DeGuzman-Ciccone, a Figure Pro, to help me train heavy, build muscle and provide me with a nutrition plan. I have been working with her for 5 years now and do not know what I would do without her expertise, support, encouragement and spotting!
And now, today, my fitness journey continues as I prepare for my professional debut the end of March. Yes, unbelievably, at age 55, after 5 years of bull-headed determination and having participated in more than 15 amateur competitions, I earned my pro card in Pittsburgh on August 30, 2013. As I write this, I look back at my life over all of the years of experimenting with different fitness activities and I am grateful that I have such a strong, flexible body that has worked so well for me. I am grateful that at an early age I discovered the satisfaction and stress-relieving benefits of physical activity, using my body, disciplining it and training it through and past pain and failure. In my career as a personal trainer it is my goal to nurture and support my clients in their individual fitness journeys in the hopes that they too will grow to feel the pride, satisfaction and confidence from not only what their body can accomplish but also from how it feels and looks.