BY SHELLY SLOCUM
VIRGINIA BEACH — My fitness journey started for the wrong reason – for a boy.
I signed up for a weightlifting class in my senior year of high school. Two years prior, I had met a cute boy. He was in that class. I saw it as a good excuse to talk to him again and impress him. Unfortunately, he overlooked the teenage girl desperate for his attention.
My coach, on the other hand, was impressed with how I progressed and continued to push myself.
Working out became a way to relieve the anger that seemed to dictate my days back in 2016.
I was unhappy about so many things at the time – the color of my hair, school, my nonexistent love life, and so many other things that can matter too much to a teenager.
When I was working out, the only thing I thought about was the next lift. It gave me focus.
Initially, I overdid it. I became obsessed with weightlifting that year, working out three times a day while not eating nearly enough to sustain the work.
It was an unhealthy pattern that continued into college. I became an awkward combination of both muscular and weak. I didn’t know any better, though, and I had a six pack. In my mind, that meant I was incredibly healthy. No one could tell me otherwise.
I worked out with improper form and no direction. Although I was doing everything wrong and essentially torturing my body, one positive thing came from this phase of my life.
I was doing something for myself because I loved it. I wasn’t seeing myself through the eyes of a boy who never cared.
Weight lifting started as a way to relieve stress and pass time. It became my hobby and the highlight of my days. It soon became a sport for me.
Scrolling through Instagram, I saw seemingly endless posts by fitness models who put together daily workout programs. In July 2018, after two years of working out with no clear direction, I decided to make my own weekly program to follow.
I floated around the gym with slightly more direction, but I still did not quite understand everything about fitness and being truly healthy.
It wasn’t until I saw a woman named Paola deadlifting 300 pounds that I realized I wanted more than just stress relief from my workouts. I wanted that strength. I wanted to see how much I could lift and then make myself lift even more. I wanted to start powerlifting.
I didn’t want to compete at the time. I just wanted to do it for myself.
There were still challenges. I lifted on my own for a few months, but I plateaued. For two months in 2019, I could not improve upon my personal records.
I was frustrated. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. I was doing the same workouts that had been working for me for years. Why did they suddenly stop working?
What I didn’t understand was that I was once again living an unhealthy, unsustainable lifestyle.
I could not comprehend all of the moving parts that take place in a sport like powerlifting. I wasn’t eating enough, drinking enough, using proper form or stretching at all.
I got workout advice from my boyfriend at the time. After that relationship ended, I decided that I needed help from a real personal trainer. I stepped down from my high horse and finally admitted that I needed real help.
It has been over a year since I got a coach, the best decision I’ve made for my fitness career. My coach has helped me eat right, use sustainable workout programs and correct muscle imbalances. His guidance has helped make me healthy.
My fitness journey began in an unhealthy state of mind. It continued in different patterns of unhealthy living over the course of three years. It took me finally admitting that I wasn’t healthy for me to get on the right track and become a competitive powerlifter.
I did not initially want to compete, but I will participate in my second powerlifting competition in April. What started as signing up for a high school class to impress a boy has now resulted in me competing in statewide competitions for no one’s praise but my own.
Now I lift weights because of the high I get when I set a new personal record. I work out because hearing that clang of 45 lb. plates gives me butterflies the way someone else’s attention used to.
I am strong for myself, and absolutely no one else.
The author is a graduate of Ocean Lakes High School and Regent University.
© 2022 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC