Shelli Johnson's Fitness Journey

This is POST 9 of my “fitness journey” blogging. For backstory, see Post 1,
Post 2Post 3Post 4Post 5Post 6Post 7 and Post 8.]



Probably a better headline for this post would be:GETTING FIT IS HARD TO DO.

It has been almost 6 months since I decided to get out of my sedentary rut and back into good physical condition.

In late March, I hired personal trainer Steve Bechtel and joined Elemental Gym. I also broke up with bread, potatoes, pasta, French fries, ice cream and cookies. I gave up “sleeping in” until 5:30 am , instead opting to go to the gym at 4:30 am three times a week. I let go of my previous thinking that you had to log significant time in “fat burning zone” on a treadmill or elliptical trainer several times a week or go jogging several miles a week in order to lose fat and weight. And, I made sure to work out even whenI’m traveling.

I’m happy to report that at my third weigh-in, body fat check and strength testing today, it’s all paid off. In six months, I’ve lost 23 pounds, 12.4% bodyfat, and increased my strength and endurance. I’ve climbed the Grand Teton and completed several 20-mile-plus mountain dayhikes that I completed with leftover fuel in the tank and no sore muscles or injuries. Also, for all of you who are afraid and concerned that strengthening and high intensity gym work will make you “bulkier,” which I too was concerned about – it’s simply not true. I’ve gotten significantly stronger while losing literally inches in my arms and legs.

Shelli-6mthFitnessStats, 9.15.09

By far, the most important and significant result of the past six months of hard work and getting fit is the fact that today I am a new person: a happy, healthy, fit and more energetic one.

My husband, Jerry, with our three young sons, Wolf, Fin and Hayden, ages 9, 2 and 7. We lead an active, outdoorsy life. I'd like to keep it that way.

My husband, Jerry, with our three young sons, Wolf, Fin and Hayden, ages 9, 2 and 7. We lead an active, outdoorsy life. I’d like to keep it that way.

What is this worth?
A lot. For almost four years, up until this past March, I was going to bed each night with an enormous amount regret and self criticism that in my head that went something like this: “I’m so out of shape. I can’t believe I’ve let myself go. I can’t do everything I want to do because I’m getting heavier, and lazier, less confident, and less ambitious. I’m embarrassed. I must look lazy. Why did I quit working out? Why did I eat that ice cream? Why did I not work again today?” And the list went on and on.

This happened every night as I lay awake during the last moments of each day. These thoughts weighed heavily on me, and I feel certain they took away from the quality of my life for a period of three or four years.

Also I remember in early March a walk I went on with a good friend around what we call the “Tomato Loop,” which is basically a 3-mile country loop route that is accessed from town. I was telling her that I had about “20 to 25 pounds to lose” to get back in tip-top shape and to what I figured was my ideal weight, my “most healthy” weight.

It was daunting to me even to hear myself utter those words because 20-25 pounds is a significant amount of weight. And I didn’t think I would have the patience to see it through. I was sure it would take a couple of years to lose that much. Impatience is probably my single biggest shortcoming. Having to endure two more years before I would realize my desired weight loss, well, wasn’t something I accepted easily. Talk about pain. What I was talking about would be hard in every aspect. It would cost me emotionally, physically, financially. And it would cost me my time, which as a mother of three young sons, I place the highest of values on.

And yet, six months later, I stand here today having achieved that goal. Those nagging regrets and the self criticism I used to confront myself with every night before going to sleep are now gone.

But as Steve sometimes reminds me in our conversations, results may vary.You know the sayings: You get out what you put in. Garbage in, garbage out. You do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.

The only reason I have been successful in just six months’ time is because I attacked the problem from all angles. Two facts I was 100% clear about when I consulted Steve and ETC for the first time on March 21: I’m impatient, and I’m not afraid of hard work. The fitness regimen that I have embarked upon capitalizes on these two realities. And I knew if I did my part – made sacrifices and did a bunch of hard work – then it would be possible for me to achieve my goal in a shorter amount of time.

I adjusted my diet to include only healthy foods and decreased the number of calories I consumed to 10% of my body weight. I worked out 5-6 days a week, including high intensity in just about every session. I remained accountable and committed. For me, hiring a personal trainer helps significantly with this aspect. Having some form of “contractual” agreement has the effect of being more binding.

Steve talks to me often about the need for commitment when it comes to fitness and our health. He tells me how Elemental Gym’s membership experiences cycles. That it’s uncommon to have members that stay committed throughout the year. We are masters at procrastinating when it comes to our health.

We all know how the story goes. Most of us have lived it before; it’s not unique. Something else always gets in the way. For a few months of the year, or a half of a year, or for several years, for whatever reason, many of us will demote fitness to the bottom of, or off of our, list of priorities, despite the fact that our health and care for it can extend and add vitality to our lives.

In my case, my husband and I have three young sons. We lead an active, outdoorsy life – and I want to keep it that way. It’s important to me that I’m able to keep up with them and “play” with them whether it’s wrestling with them on the floor, climbing mountains or snowboarding with them. Heck I have my own goals, too, like doing more 50k trail-running events and long, epic dayhikes and mountain climbs. I want to be an enthusiastic, energetic and confident wife and mother. And, I want to have as much drive as possible to perform my work. (Weight and fat loss, or improving our time in an event, are things we think of first when we think of getting more fit and working out hard, regularly. But I would argue the increase in energy, positive attitude adjustment and confidence are the real benefits)

When I think of how I was feeling last March, following a four-year slump in my fitness, and consider what I’ve accomplished since then, whatever this feeling is I have now is the exact opposite of regret.

I’m pretty certain that if I hadn’t made the bold changes that I did, beginning on March 23, I would not be on the floor dog-piling and wrestling with our three young sons, or racing them at the playground. I would be taking all these frolicking times sitting down, in passive, “spectator” mode. And what a gigantic bummer that would be, not only for them, but for me.

My four boys. I want to be able to do anything our boys do. And not be injured as a result of it!

My four boys. I want to be able to do anything our boys do. And not be injured as a result of it!

Here are some of my favorite quotes related to regrets, that I think are relevant to our delaying, or not, becoming fit and healthy:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do…” (Mark Twain)

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” (Sydney Smith)

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.” (Mercedes Lackey)

“You never regret working out.” (local friend and ETC member Deborah Ellis)

We can’t get time back. The health benefits of keeping physically fit are reported everywhere with scientific, supporting data. We all know being fit and healthy is good for us. And yet we so often don’t value its importance. Probably, because it’s hard work.

Giving up French fries, ice cream, chips, cookies and candy has been very difficult. Getting up at 4:30 am three mornings a week is hard. Doing high intensity strengthening and metabolic training with Steve Bechtel is not easy. Staying committed and eating right and still finding time to work out when I travel, which is often, is inconvenient. In fact, everything related to what I committed to six months ago when I embarked on this “fitness journey” is hard.

But I would argue that trying to live the life I want to lead, but not being able to, is even harder.

And even harder yet is knowing what changes need to be made to have the life you want, and yet not making those changes.

In summary, I am no expert, and far from perfect on the topic of physical fitness and weight loss. And I still have the task of remaining committed, even after having reached my initial goals. Being fit, after all, is a life-long journey, not an event. Also important for me to mention is my sincere thanks to my family and friends, Steve and ETC trainers, for their support. Without it, my fitness journey would be even more difficult.

Elemental Gym has a fantastic gym, some terrific programs and classes that will help you achieve better fitness. And, I might add, some great personal trainers: Steve BechtelEllen BechtelJagoe Reid, and Sophie Mosemann.