Dangerous Change: Why I Became A Personal Trainer

As an individuality-embracing culture we emphatically proclaim we like change. We say we don’t fear the unknown. Come what may! Hashtag adventure forever! But in my experience, humans are, at our very core, creatures of habit. As glamorous and exciting as change can appear, oftentimes when push comes to shove we don’t like the way change feels. Getting out of a bad relationship? I’ve been there, it’s not fun. Moving to a new town? Stressful. Pursuing a new career? Risky.

Possibly even worse, we are dismayed when people we know change. So-and-so used to do this, and now they’re doing thatSubconsciously, we want everyone to stay the same, to fit in the same boxes we’re used to seeing them in. Change is necessary, and yet more often than not, we stick to what is comfortable rather than what is unknown.

2015 is upon us, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for it. Ready for the newness, ready for the unknown, ready to grow. At the beginning of this month I passed my personal trainer certification exam and am now employed at a local gym, officially pursuing my passion for fitness and health. If you had told me a year ago that I’d be a personal trainer today  or even that I’d be exercising every day!  I would have thought you were off your rocker. But isn’t how the best stories start?

A small background, if you aren’t familiar: In 2014 my husband Nick and I moved to Portland where I landed my “dream job” as a creative writer for a high profile company in the wedding photography industry. The job fizzled out after a few months. It wasn’t a good fit for either side, which was disappointing and confusing, but okay. I began asking God, “Now what?” At the time, Nick was in the middle of a summer gig as the head coach for Windells, a ski and snowboard summer camp at Mt. Hood. I spent almost a month up there, hiking and snowboarding everyday, eating camp food and waiting for God’s direction. Every day I was moving my body, exercising by simply living life outdoors, and I came to a startling conclusion: I loved it.

I made a bold decision last summer on that volcano. I decided to pursue something different. To explore new passions and launch into a fresh career. I embraced the part of me that was becoming more and more “me”  the part that obnoxiously reminded people to drink more water and couldn’t stop talking about yoga.

One afternoon, sitting with Nick at the river after a long day on Mt. Hood, I pondered out loud, “What do you think about me pursuing personal training?” His response? “Laura, I’ve been thinking about you doing that for ages now.” One simple epiphany after years of confusing “what is my destiny” conversations, and that was it. Without turning back, without once questioning whether or not this was the “right” decision, I simply did it. I enrolled with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, studied my butt off, and six months later I'm a certified personal trainer. While art and writing will always be my lifeblood, it’s just so damn fun to pursue something completely new and different and unexpected, to throw myself into the unfamiliar and see what happens.

I am absolutely loving this journey. I still have a long ways to go  I am relatively new to the fitness industry, after all  however the passion is showing through, and raw determination is starting to give way to success. And with it, joy.

Embracing change is more than making resolutions to alter a bad habit just because it’s a new calendar year. This is about allowing yourself to evolve, to make discoveries about who you are that seem foreign and yet thrilling. What if you allowed yourself to pursue that crazy dream that seems too unreachable, too unfathomable, the one your peers will probably question... the scary one? You’ll never know if you don’t find out. As Nike says, just do it.

What a thrilling ride it will be.

Sharing The Road

I was running late.

(I realize this is not a surprise to anybody. Read on.)

While biking home from work a few weeks back, I decided to stop by Trader Joe's to pick up some essentials. After halting a few times to consult Google Maps, I finally arrived and began my hunt for organic Greek yogurt, an eggplant, and a few other staples. At checkout, I discovered I could not fit all the food in my backpack, already full with my laptop and work clothes. Rookie mistake. For the next fifteen minutes, I sat outside Trader Joe's, packing and repacking that backpack like the Tetris expert I am, chomping down one of the apples I had just purchased to make more room. Finally everything was stuffed in, and subsequently weighed about a hundred pounds. Carrying a bushel of bananas in one hand, I pedaled home, exhausted and hungry and sweaty. More than once, I had to stop and readjust the weight.

When I finally pulled up to my friend Sam's house (who I'm currently living with if you'll remember), fruit literally falling out of my backpack, I could hear soft laughter and the clinking of glasses. An outdoor dinner party. Slowly, I made my way up the driveway, and my sweaty face, hunched over from the immense weight of my groceries, made eye contact with half a dozen strangers sitting on the lawn at a table, twinkle lights cascading. Sam's friends. I stared at the Kinfolk scene before me as bruised apples rolled down the driveway. Sam delightedly introduced me to the group. I could feel sweat dripping in unmentionable places as I made some affable comments about needing a shower. Laughing off my appearance, I hurriedly parked my bike and ran inside.

Freshly showered, I returned to the group twenty minutes later to properly make introductions and join in on the fanfare, hair damp and spirits lifted. The slight feeling of embarrassment clung on. I know these girls, in their Saltwater sandals and maxi skirts, had seen many a sweaty bike commuter before. But I was not used to being the one on the bike.

Portland is widely heralded as the most bike-friendly city in the US, where approximately 1 in 10 people commute by pedal as opposed to car. This city proudly boasts naked bike rides and a handful of actual protected bike lanes on certain routes. There are even a few streets where bicyclists have the right of way. Being a bike commuter isn't a new concept; there are many who deliberately choose this lifestyle. However, I know in my heart of hearts that if I could still drive, I would not be one of them.

My visual impairment prevents me from driving and thus getting around easily, something that has hindered the past few years of my life. As I learn to seek out independence in other ways, I find myself embracing a new culture and lifestyle, not foreign to many other Portlanders and outdoor enthusiasts.

I have been in Portland for almost two months now, living apart from Nick as he works up at Mt. Hood for the summer, patiently waiting for our future home to go into escrow so I can begin nesting (I'm going to buy all the succulents). In the meantime, I am finally mobile again, truly for the first time since I last drove a car five years ago. I am able to transport myself around; I am able to explore. In short, I have become a bonafide bike commuter.

The funny thing is this: as I shopped for bike shorts the other day, I was actually into it. I was interested in bike shorts. While I am living a lifestyle I did not necessarily choose, I am finding that it makes me more fulfilled and more grateful. There is something pretty remarkable about having the wind in your hair (and yes, sometimes the rain) while accomplishing a physical feat to get from Point A to Point B, instead of just sitting in a car and turning the key. My soul is getting fed.

Plus, my calves look great.