A true champion emboldens the weak and leads an entire team to victory.
I thought the 60day challenge was just about me – to become the best me to fulfill the God-given purpose of my own life. With confidence and boldness, I entered the competition to win. I set a personal goal of losing pounds and inches. I envisioned myself at the top. Then, the vision of standing alone to become the 60day champion was challenged while attending my first Alpha class. It took the encouragement and instruction from another individual, my trainer Todd, to overcome the damaged self-esteem and assaulted pride I experienced as I lay on the floor unable to get up after a single burpee. I wondered to myself, who thought it was a good idea to jump high, lay on the floor, stand up only to do it all over again? Little did I know that 8 weeks later that same person would be doing 15 burpee box jumps in a row (I am still wondering who came up with such an awful combination of burpees AND box jumps).
The encouragement in this journey was also extended from Mark, a top 3 finalist in a previous 60-day challenge. He encouraged me to start running. Knowing how to run on the treadmill wasn’t enough to create the champion in me. After all, I have been running on treadmills for years and never accomplished a greater distance than a quarter of a mile without breaking to walk. My successful 2-mile run was the encouragement of Mark.
Because of Todd, Mark, and several other amazing friends I have made during this time, my outlook on fitness changed. Rather than an obsession with self and winning the race and leaving everyone else behind in the dust, it became about picking up the fallen, the broken, the discouraged, and helping to carry them towards the goal line. It became apparent that my success was not determined by a number on a scale or tape measure, but rather the number of people I brought with me across that line. It became about inspiring others to fulfill the calling on their lives.
As I learned that we dismiss the power of our influence when we don’t recognize its existence, I pushed harder and moved faster. I recognized the eyes of those around me – My new gym friends, family, coworkers, and social media followers – were closely examining a way for them to find hope in their race too. But it wasn’t just the eyes of people I knew. There were eyes of people like Gary. You see, Gary is a fellow 67-year-old Life Time member. As he introduced himself, I learned that his eyes saw me on day 2 of the challenge in Todd’s barbell strength class. His eyes saw me struggling to keep up the pace. His eyes saw as I repetitively decreased the weight on my bar until ultimately using no weight at all. And then his eyes kept watching week after week as I slowly made an improvement. On the last day of the challenge, as he introduced himself as one of the Life Time run club leaders, he recognized me as an inspiration. He told me his eyes kept watching over the weeks as he noticed improvement which inspired not only him but so many others. He expressed his gratitude to me for constantly showing up. He didn’t know the sacrifices made and the hardships I faced battling covid, a recently recovered fractured back, and concerns of an irregular heartbeat – so he didn’t know the magnitude of his encouragement. It was at this moment that I knew my fitness journey would outlast 60 days – because the desire to influence and encourage in that way is something I never want to stop. In fact, it was something I vowed to bring into every area of my life because I realized that we will hit a brick wall – but every time we hit that wall, we get stronger and the wall gets weaker. And when we hit it enough, eventually we will see a breakthrough.
When influence is the goal – giving up is not an option. And it would be very remiss of me to not acknowledge that this faith, mindset change, and strength came from God. I saw how He used every person along my path as a vessel of encouragement – and I only desire to be used in the same way. I saw how when I wanted to give up, God gave me the hope and strength to keep going and He did this through people. I witnessed the power in prayer when I prayed for the ability to push through the painful days. And I want to be an extension of this hope.
When other people’s hope is on the line, showing up is easy. There is no longer an obsession with self but rather focusing on the success of others. I can document the muscle gained, and the 23lbs, 8% body fat, and 27 inches I lost – but as Gary helped me realize – I will never be able to document the hope sparked, faith increased, and strength gained in others as a result of my persistence and intentionality.
I can’t think of any other way to end this essay than to extend encouragement to whoever is reading this. Challenge yourself in some way this year – and don’t get too focused on your destination. Because sometimes the journey is all it was ever about in the first place.