When Oscar Insurance Corporation asked me to write a post about my health hero I had a hard time picking just one. In the end I decided that writing about multiple people would be fitting since Oscar, a provider serving New York and New Jersey, is all about promoting health through community. As a fitness professional I spend my days trying to be a health hero for other people but really these people are the ones who inspire me. You see, when I moved to Charlottesville, VA after working in New York City and Chicago I had a bit of a paradigm shift. Charlottesville is a beautiful town as well as one of the most popular places to retire in the country. Moving here at the ripe old age of 29 I had previously worked with mostly young professionals. Nowadays the majority of my clientele are between the ages of 55 and 87. These folks have no interest in 6 pack abs or 30 inch biceps. In fact, I rarely focus on numbers at all these days. They come to me with one common goal: to feel better.
My clients give new meaning to the phrase 70 is the new 50. Due to Charlottesville’s proximity to Washington D.C. many are retired lawyers, doctors, and government officials. One would think after living such fast paced lives they would be inclined to slow down but this is not the case. They are well versed in working hard to overcome obstacles and this is apparent in the way they relate to their bodies.
I used to think my work was to make people look better in order to be more comfortable in their own skin. I now know that being comfortable in one’s own skin is less about an aesthetic and more about a feeling, a confidence that comes with knowing that you are doing your best even when things are far from ideal.
My clients have not had it easy. More than a few have fought and won their battles with cancer. Some have lost. Several live with multiple sclerosis. I’ve written programs for clients with all manner of frustrating symptoms. Whether due to a degenerative disease or the aftermath of valiant military service they do not see their struggles as a reason to give up. They know that the road to better health is paved with commitment.
My clients have encouraged me to look at my own health in a new light. My struggles used to make me feel like a fraud in the fitness world. I used to think I should be effortlessly thin, glowing, a beacon of health. Now I see that through my own struggles I am better able to relate to their struggles. I am not a fraud, I am human.
Through working with this dynamic group I’ve come to know the importance of community support when it comes to individual health. I’ve watched them cheer one another on and have received the benefit of their enthusiasm. When I was pregnant with my daughter Eve they supported me through 40 weeks of training and teaching. When my daughter tragically died due to a cord compression 3 days after her due date I didn’t think I would be able to continue working in the same capacity. How could I go on preaching the benefits of a healthy lifestyle when my own body had betrayed me so egregiously after all my hard work?
During the days and weeks that followed delivery I received countless cards filled with kind words from clients that had accepted, long before I did, that try as we may some things in this life are beyond our control. I soon went back to work and though every day is a challenge I know that my experience strengthens my connection to others who wrestle daily with their demons.
I would be remiss in not mentioning my littlest health hero, my daughter Eve. As soon as I found out I would be having a daughter I knew it was time to start giving my own body more respect. Like many women my body is far from the ideal I hold in my mind. I didn’t want Eve to take on my insecurities so throughout pregnancy I began trading in the idea of exercise as self-punishment for one of self-care. I focused less on calories and more on nourishment. I focused more on exercising to feel good and less on the size of my thighs. Though Eve is no longer with me her influence is still strong. I want to live a life she would be proud of, one that honors her memory. My body was her home and because of this it is sacred. Every movement, every breath, every beat of my heart connects me to her and all those who seek greater health for a life well-lived.