An individual’s fitness journey is rarely linear. As a child and in my early teens I was very active. I played sports competitively, swam, skated and loved to cycle. In my early twenties, an undergraduate student at UofT, my activity levels had dramatically decreased and I began suffering from chronic back-pain.
My backpack felt like a crushing weight on my shoulders.
Carrying groceries was an arduous task. I remember even finding some doors difficult to push open. My commute to school with my heavy backpack was terrible. When entering the subway I would obsessively look for a seat; I knew my back would start hurting within minutes of trying to balance during rush-hour crowds if I couldn’t find a place to sit.
I was diagnosed with mild scoliosis and told that the back-pain was just something I would need to get used to, that I would have it for the rest of my life. Then I discovered weight-training.
My husband Dave, then boyfriend, introduced me to weight-training and he was a very patient teacher. I had to start with the lightest weights the gym had for almost every exercise.
I remember feeling dizzy on my first legs day and telling Dave “I think the garbage can is moving” and “is it okay if I’m seeing stars?”.
He encouraged me to stick with it, and the changes were incredible. I had more energy and could accomplish so much each day. I felt stronger and more confident. I slept better and woke up each morning feeling genuinely rested. I was happier.
Unfortunately, the back-pain remained. The scoliosis was causing a muscular imbalance in my back. While I was weight training my body was finding ingenious ways to “cheat” form wise during the workout which was only making my structural balance issues worse. I found it discouraging that I had plateaued in my back-training.
No matter how hard I worked I was unable to lift heavier. It was time to seek out the professionals!
I started working with a personal trainer and it was one of the best decisions of my life. After three months I had not only completely alleviated my back-pain I was able to do chin-ups! I could push more than my body-weight on the prowler, me the same girl who used to have trouble pushing open heavy doors! I began feeling so strong that I described it as, “my superhero training” to family and friends.
With my new-found upper body strength I started doing activities like bouldering, parkour, and indoor obstacle courses, activities I never imagined being able to do.
I also learned how to eat nutrient dense meals and goal-set which set me up for transformative success. For our honeymoon my husband and I were able to complete a rigorous and unforgettable 22.5 km hike in Yosemite!
I was in the best shape of my life and I wanted nothing more than to help others experience life as a “superhero”.
I completed a rigorous personal training certification course (PICP levels 1 and 2) and a one-month internship at a Toronto gym, Optimal Body Fitness. I then worked as a personal trainer and helped countless clients reach their fitness goals. Remember how I said a fitness journey is rarely linear? I was in store for a new set of unique challenges-the ones that come with pregnancy.
I enjoyed pregnancy. I continued to weight-train and hike and was happily working right up until a week before I delivered. Keeping active was fantastic for reducing swelling and lower-back pain. However, my body inevitably underwent many changes. I had to learn to train differently, at a lower intensity while also avoiding certain potentially harmful exercises.
Due to the positioning of my baby, a C-section was also necessary which meant a longer recovery time.
Post-natal training was a whole different domain with a lot of emphasis on slowly re-building core strength. I was waking up every hour on some nights to breast-feed and take care of Elowyn. My eating habits were all over the place. I was turning to carbs when I was starving in the middle of the night but also nauseous from waking up so often.
It was discouraging that I wasn’t able to do core exercises twelve weeks after delivering that I was able to demonstrate to clients while eight months pregnant.
I was moving further and further away from my goal of getting back into my pre-pregnancy shape. I was embarrassed that even with my training I was letting myself slip into old habits. That I had gained weight. That I had lost muscle. That I barely made it to the gym. I confided in my husband, and he told me exactly what I needed to hear: “You’re beautiful. I’m so proud of the strong and loving mother that you are to Elowyn. You know what you need to do, you just have to decide that you will”.
I learned that even when fitness is your top priority, sticking to your meal-plan and exercise regiment won’t always be easy which is why a good support system is vital.
Reminding yourself each and every day why you want to eat healthy and stay active goes a long way. I sat down and came up with all of the reasons I wanted to get back into shape and at the top of my list was “for Elowyn”.
I want to be the best version of myself for my daughter.
Whatever stage of your fitness journey you are at right now, remember that every day that you choose to do something towards your goal brings you one step closer. That it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Everyone deserves a chance to feel like a superhero.
Author: Sofia Martimianakis