Leveling-Up Can Be Hard to Do: Lessons from My NASM Certified Personal Trainer Journey

For the past week, I’ve been riding a wave of euphoria and inspiration that can only come from accomplishing something that at one time felt utterly impossible to you.

If you follow me on social media, you might know that I have been studying to become a NASM Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine for about a year now. After a year of hitting the textbook hard and immersing myself in the world of fitness, I feel elated to share that I PASSED my certification exam on the first try and am so excited to begin adding personal training to my online program offerings in the near future. PLEASE STAY TUNED…

I feel called, though, to share a bit of the hidden, behind-the-scenes story about what was going on for me over the past year while studying for my exam because this has been a journey that has reached wayyy beyond learning proper exercise form and functional anatomy.

You see, passing this test and allowing myself to become a personal trainer meant so much more to me than an extra certification.

The truth is that having the courage to sign up, study for, and pass this exam had been something that I long put in the box of things an “overweight girl” can’t be or do.

Shocked I am still thinking of myself in “overweight” terms?

Yep, me too. I had no idea to what extent I still was holding on to my “heavier girl” identity until delving into the idea of being a personal trainer.

And it had absolutely nothing to with the scale. Actually, I am the fittest that I have ever been in my entire life.

This had everything to do with my self-confidence, self-identity, and vestiges of a desire to do everything I could to hide me and my body and take up the least amount of space possible bubbling right up to the surface.

In a way, it makes sense.

My identity and idea of who I am and what my body can do as an athlete were cemented during my most formative teenage years where my relationship with my food and body were hard and felt infinitely out of control. While I always was an athlete, I also suffered from never being a “fast enough” swimmer or cross-country runner regardless of how hard I worked. And I always worked hard.

But, let me tell you, being slower and overweight but still LOVING exercise and WANTING SO MUCH to be fast? Well, it was a vulnerable place to be.

There was, however, a small comfort that my weight could be the thing that was holding me back. The reason why I couldn’t be faster, stronger. And at least it gave me a place to hide my desires in when in my heart I am (and have always been) a competitive athlete who lives for the endorphin rush, the challenge, and the competition.

To cope, I have often downplayed any sense of ownership of expertise in the fitness arena and because of this my confidence in my abilities as an athlete has always felt incredibly delicate and intrinsically connected to my body image and confidence levels.

Because of this I have had moments of great triumph and feelings of success in my fitness capabilities, but have also had moments of feeling completely destroyed by my lack of ability to deliver during a workout.

Fast forward through TEN FULL YEARS of practice in loving up my body with better nutrition and emotional balance in the smaller body I still now inhabit, but the subconscious has remained ripe with all sorts of excuses and coping mechanisms that wants to protect me from being vulnerable in my fitness because, honestly, I care so much.

While it used to work to play the weight card, that card feels much less available to me these days, so that sneaky low self-confidence that can come from telling yourself that your body weight dictates your self-worth can rear its head in ways it hasn’t in awhile when put in a vulnerable situation…like trying something that you told yourself you weren’t worthy of a long time ago, even if that makes no logical sense at all.

When I started studying for this exam, I found myself sprinting right towards an area of interest and passion that I had left untouched in my professional life and found myself wanting to turn around and run back in the other direction because I didn’t want to get there and be bad at it.

When I confided that I have been struggling emotionally with completing my certification to my friends and family members most people responded to my reaction to the experience with sheer confusion. What they were seeing on the outside vs. what I was experiencing on the inside just wasn’t matching up.

“I really don’t get it. You’ve been an athlete and into fitness forever. You LOVE this stuff. You’ve been coaching clients for 7 years. I don’t understand what is so different about this.”

But, for me, it was different.

I wanted it so much, but I was honestly petrified of finding myself in the vulnerable and visible position of having to confront head-on assumptions I had about what I, and my body, were worthy of doing and being.

While it took me a while to buckle down and study – avoidance is a quintessential coping mechanism for terror and fear – I finally took and deep breath and felt the fear and did it anyway.

Every single day I watched my excitement and inspiration over the subject matter I was learning about duke it out with the “how dare you think you cans”….

It has been a roller coaster of a ride, certainly, but I have tried to pay close attention to where all this fear is coming from and try to confront it head on as much as possible.

I have tried to call myself out on false truths about who I am that I have been holding on to for over two decades.

And it feels good!

So good, actually, that I now have a working list of “things I have always wanted to do but don’t think I can do” that I am working on.

But knowing how good it feels to be on the “other side” of an accomplishment that I didn’t feel worthy of has made me wonder and want to explore how many other boxes I have kept myself in just in order to feel safe and unseen from the world.

I share this with you because I honestly was unaware of how deep and hidden some of these self-judgments I held were and breaking past these boundaries has made me wonder how else I have kept myself small when I truly didn’t have to let myself be.

While it’s not always easy, my true revelation has been in that we do have power to choose to let ourselves let go and rewire that false programming that is holding us back from doing the things we dream of doing.

And while it is still a bit scary, I have to let the weight card go.

And for anyone who has struggled with poor body image, fluctuating weight gain or loss, and low self-confidence, I just want you to know that whatever your weight is doing or has done in the past, you are absolutely worthy right now, I promise.

And you are allowed to let the weight card go, too.

There truly are beautiful things on the other side of fear and one of my absolute favorite part of coaching is nudging people to take the plunge because we are often so much closer to where we desire to be than we think.

Will you join me in plunging further into that unknown territory?

Even though it sounds complicated, it really starts with a very simple single first step: acknowledging the thing that you really want but are way too scared to claim.
You can do it and I hope you do.

Would love to hear what that thing is for you. Share with us below, or just send me a simple one sentence email claiming it to jen@coachingbyjennifer.com.

xx jen

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