It has been just over four years since I stopped working directly for the U.S. military. Four years since I was surrounded by other people who did PT regularly. In corporate America, no one shows up to the morning meeting in their PT gear. It has also been four years since I began making the drive from Cleveland to D.C. nearly every single weekend — which means a lot of terrible food choices on the road and very little time for a fitness routine. The excess weight that found its way on to my frame during these four years felt like a bit of a surprise, despite how slowly and deliberately it took over.
37 pounds later, I don’t recognize myself. This was me in the gym back in the day, taking a selfie while holding a tree pose. I was proud of that. I worked hard for it.
I used to take photos with the hashtag #wheremyfeetare because I was always traveling for work alone and I wanted some part of me in the photo. It became my schtick. Most of the #wheremyfeetare posts on Instagram are me. In the last few years, it has become my way to be in the photo without really showing any part of myself, so no one could see that I had gained so much weight. In fact, it was seeing my first SOFREP podcast photo when I realized just how much I no longer looked like myself. I hadn’t quite come to grips at that point that I also didn’t feel like myself either.
Then I came to SOFREP full-time and I inherited this band of military brothers again, all younger than I am and still either hitting the gym or the road regularly. And then one day I woke up and realized that I missed that girl who felt confident wearing a bikini in public.
I was poised to have the best body of my life at 40 and then absolutely everything blew up — including my waistline.
Alex Hollings has been my spirit animal lately with his immensely popular Old Man Fitness column. I read them with excitement and then I plan to get back to the trails — trail running was always my workout of choice — but then somehow, I find myself still on the couch with my face buried in the carbs. I could not put my finger on the motivation block. Sure, it was going to hurt, but I am not afraid of physical pain. I ran my first half marathon in 2016 without having run one single mile the year prior. Not one. That hurt like hell. It probably wasn’t the smartest move either but I had committed to it, so I did it. Nothing makes me do something faster than the assumption that I can’t.
But this was different. I know what to do in the gym. I know how to eat clean. I even legitimately like to work out. But I just couldn’t make it happen. And then it dawned on me, that the layer of flab that I had allowed to happen, was a defense mechanism. That girl? The one who was a size 4 on her “fat days?” She was a troublemaker and not particularly good at playing within the lines. She broke hearts — most notably — her own. So, I subconsciously destroyed her.
The only way I can describe it would be like placing a child safety lock on the liquor cabinet or a speed regulator on a high-performance car that your teenager is driving.
When I was still working in the intelligence community, I cultivated a persona that I would come to regret deeply. Rather than putting my intelligent, highly educated and capable foot forward, I chose to put the stiletto clad, locker room-mouthed, sexually charged one front and center. I had convinced myself that my body got me in the room and my brains kept me there. I was so incredibly wrong.
What it did was obfuscate the strong and capable mom and professional and worse, it opened a Pandora’s box of my baser instincts. I’m working on a book that will delve into that whole sordid story so I’ll leave it at that for now.
Suffice it to say, when all of that exploded spectacularly in my face in the winter of 2014, that girl who was in the gym at 6:30 a.m. five days a week, hitting the trails at least four days a week and crushing yoga like it was my business disappeared into the abyss. She was gone. Her workout partner was gone and her self-destructive motivation gone with him.
For four years, I have said good riddance. I hated that girl and the man that I had become her for.
I may not have been running any more — but I was still running from something.
I don’t want to hate that person anymore — I want the best parts of her back. The fearless parts. I want her back for my two boys who are only getting stronger and faster every day — she could keep up with them. I want to be the superhero mom they believe I am.
I want her back for myself. If you strip away the mishandled power and misplaced ego it becomes clear that she was a badass who was not afraid to try new things.
So, taking a cue from my SOFREP brothers, I am going to get myself back into the gym and out on the trail, and I am making this forum my witness. Physical fitness, mental fitness, emotional fitness — we’ve got this ladies (and fellas, if you care to join me.)
This is my origin story. Every superhero has one, right?
PS I don’t want to be as buff as Alex, but I do want to be able to kick his butt at the next SHOT Show. Time to get moving.
Images courtesy of the author