I get asked often about my fitness motivation. Why I continue to train the way I do. What is it that drives me on a daily basis and what it is that got me started on my fitness journey?
My motivation has changed over time. Now, fitness is part of me and something that motivates me on a daily basis to keep learning and to keep trying to be a better version of myself. But this isn’t how it started for me. It was about 4 years ago when something happened to me that I needed to heal. It was then that I vowed to myself that I will become stronger and never let something like this happen to me again.
At the time, I was sporty. I always played sports, but going to gym was a hell no!! In fact, mistakenly so, I used to think that people at the gym tended to be self-centred and were only interested about their physical aspect. I was wrong, oh so wrong!
March four years ago, I was studying abroad in Los Angeles, and my boyfriend was visiting me from France. He was an alcoholic and an occasional drug abuser; well actually on more occasions than I wanted to admit at the time. I was 24 and in love, or I thought I was. It’s the age where you think that if you love someone, you will be able to fix them eventually (but that is not today’s topic).
It was a Thursday, and I had an important exam the next week. I had given him the only key to my flat, so I asked him not to wander drunk in the streets that day because I needed to get home right after school. I called him on the bus and could tell by his voice that he was already drunk in a bar… at 3pm. I needed my key, so I went to the bar to pick him up, but he started insulting me in front of everyone. He would do this to me on a regular basis, but I was in no mood for it that day so I started heading home alone, and he eventually followed me.
One thing led to another, and we were eventually involved in a massive argument. Once we got home, I asked him to pack up his stuff and leave, but instead of leaving he started to beat on me. I tried to push him back, but at the time I was small, only 50kg, and unable to defend myself. The hits were getting worse. I tried protecting my face with my arm, but he kept kicking and punching me. Eventually, he managed to grab my shoulders and pull me down, his knee on my stomach (so I couldn’t move) and a hand on my throat. He told me he would not leave, that we can do it the easy way or the hard way, and that it was up to me to decide. Luckily and thankfully, a neighbour had called the police after hearing the fight and they came to help me.
I went through many phases (which I will not detail here, possibly a topic for another time) after that day. It was more than the usual insults and “pushing me around” that day. I actually thought I was going to die. I can still remember the feeling of hopelessness I felt while I was laying there on the floor. I can still remember the craziness burning in my eyes and this voice in my head telling me he was gone and would not stop hitting me. It was right then that I promised myself that I will never again allow someone to break any part of me or make me feel like I was less than a human being.
I was in a really dark place; I had withdrawn into myself so that I wouldn’t feel any pain or any shame anymore. It was like being a shell, like an envelope that does not really feel, my mind constantly numb because I did not want to think about it, analyse it and tell myself yes, this is what happened. I then started going to the gym every day because I wanted to get stronger, because I wanted to be able to tell myself that the next time I would fight back.
After a few months, I hired a trainer who became a very good friend. I think he was moved by my will and motivation. I remember I was so skinny at the time, but still, I wasn’t afraid of working hard! I would train with my trainer every single day of the week for about four hours for a whole year. Every single evening I would go to the gym after work from 7pm to 11pm and I would train as hard as I could. It took me sometime to realize, however, that I was not doing it for me.
I was angry. All this training I was doing was out of anger. It was like every workout was a little revenge for what had happened to me. Like each bit of effort I was putting in could erase a little bit of the shame I was feeling for having been so weak. But at the same time, it taught me discipline, consistency, and most importantly to go beyond my limits.
I discovered a new me. I was able to do things I would never have thought possible!
After a while, this feeling of anger disappeared and fitness became simply a passion, something I would do to forget the stress of my day at work, something I would do to feel good, to re-centre my energy. The gym also became a place where I would meet good people and new friends.
I think the common understanding of what the motivation behind everyone’s fitness journey is the will to better ourselves. But I think, and from my experience I believe, there has to be a deeper meaning for each one of us. I think fitness is something a lot of people embrace in order to learn about themselves and often to heal. We are all fighters, when you think about it, we all had to survive some experience and jump back on to our feet after life crushing us down. For me, I used fitness to heal, but now it has turned into something so much more – a life tool.
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