Why I Got Into Coaching
I have a bit of a non traditional fitness background. I mean I've always been active, played soccer growing up, worked at an outdoor summer camp, went hiking, etc, but my career started in finance... so how did I get into coaching? To answer that question, I have to tell you a story. And it's a little long, and a lot personal, here goes!
I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was September 13, 2011, and my husband sat on the couch while I packed for a trip back to New Mexico because my grandmother had passed away. We were talking about how the silver lining of the trip was that I was going to be able to see my niece and nephews whom I ADORED (his sister's kids).
Out of nowhere, he got really quiet, so I asked if he was OK. He paused and then said, "it's nothing, we'll talk about it when you get back." Anyone in a relationship knows that answer doesn't fly. So I stopped packing, sat on the couch, and told him I wasn't going out of town if he was upset about something. He sat quiet for another minute or so and I started to get nervous. Was he sick? Did something happen at work? I didn't know what to expect.
And then he dropped a bomb. One that I didn't see coming, and one that I certainly was not mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with.
"I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I've come to the realization that I don't want kids."
"Okay..." I said, "is there anything else?"
Another long pause... "I also no longer believe in marriage."
I sat paralyzed on the couch.
"Okay... so what are you saying?"
He takes a deep breath and says something I can tell he's rehearsed in his mind 100 times before. "I just don't think it's realistic to only sleep with one person for the rest of your life."
Time stopped for a few minutes as I sat on the couch trying to process all the information I had just been told (it was the first time I was hearing all of these revelations). I knew we had problems, and I knew there were questions I wasn't asking because deep down I wasn't ready to hear the answer, but I genuinely never expected what I had just heard come from my husband's mouth.
"Jess, are you going to be OK?"
I looked up startled. He never calls me Jess... "is there someone else?"
I finally forced myself to ask.
There was a reason I had been avoiding this question... I already knew the answer deep down, but I didn't want to KNOW the answer, and sitting on our couch hearing the details broke my heart in a way I didn't realize was possible.
I was devastated.
A year?? In that moment I didn't know if I was more upset at him for leading a double life for so long, or at myself for letting it happen. I used to be this fearless girl who traveled the world and would challenge the boys at summer camp. What happened?
I still couldn't move from the couch and my mind was going in a million different directions.
"Why am I not crying?" I thought at one point. "Should I just go back to packing?"
Turns out shock is a real thing. It took a few hours for my body to fully grasp that my marriage had just ended.
I wish I could say I stood up for myself and tossed all of his clothes out of the apartment window like an episode of Sex and the City, but I did pretty much the opposite. I had put so much of my self worth and identity into that relationship and marriage, that the thought of it going away was more painful and scary then the thought of forgiving and moving forward even knowing what I knew now.
Fortunately (at least I feel this way now), my husband was ready to be done, and he moved out shortly after and cut off all communication (which at the time felt heartless, but in hindsight saved me quite of bit of pain and agony).
The next 3 months were kind of a blur, and ironically, my grandmother's death provided me the perfect excuse to take a couple weeks off work which I needed.
I had never really failed at anything in my life thus far, and this wasn't just a small setback, I had bombed the whole marriage thing. At 28 I was the only person I knew who had dealt with divorce, and had to google "how do you get divorced" to even know what the first step was.
And what do you do with Facebook!? Do I just change my status back to "Single" like it was a high school boyfriend?? For some reason handling social media was a huge source of stress for me at the time. It's kinda funny to me now because IT DOESN'T MATTER.
After a few weeks, I somehow dragged myself back to work (was an Associate at Goldman Sachs), and very few people knew that anything was wrong. The problem was, keeping up this fake everything-is-fine facade was exhausting, and my health started vanishing.
I also had no appetite and felt at the time that eating was the last of my concerns. My weight dropped down to just over 100 pounds, which for my 5'7" frame is NOT OK.
This brings me to a second day that is burned in my memory forever.
It was a couple months later and my soon to be ex-husband was going to drop by the apartment to pick up the last of his things, a suitcase and a few dress shirts. The suitcase was obviously packed to the gills with other stuff, it's NY, you don't waste that kind of storage, and it was stored on the top shelf of a closet. I let him in and he marched to the closet to get the suitcase down.
"No!" I shouted. "I'll get it, I have to be able to do things without you."
For some reason I needed to prove to him in that moment that I didn't NEED him. He's an ex-Army Ranger, so obviously did all the lifting for me (which I appreciated, he was a gentleman in that way), but in this instance I needed to step up.
But I couldn't lift the suitcase. I wasn't strong enough. After he left I sat on the floor of my bedroom staring at the top shelf of my closet crying. This was my rock bottom moment and when I realized I needed help.
The next day I found a therapist and joined Equinox (popular gym chain in big cities). This was day 1 of getting myself back.
Over the next year and a half I was able to not only heal from the divorce and heartbreak associated with it, but I was able to get ME back.
For my part in the decline of the marriage, I had become a shell of a person. I was working a crazy job on Wall Street, I had no hobbies, was spending less and less time with friends, and put 100% of the responsibility for my happiness on my husband (no surprise we started drifting, eh?). I was depressed and didn't like much about myself, but did everything I could to hide both of these facts from the world. I was essentially a ticking time bomb anyway, and in some ways (although I will NEVER condone his actions or the way he went about it), my ex-husband did me a huge favor by pushing me away and forcing me to face the woman in the mirror.
At first the healing was slow. I was bitter, angry, and enjoyed being a victim and all of the attention that came with it. But eventually I realized that staying in that boat would take me no where. So I became obsessed with getting better and healing myself. I started researching anything and everything I could about health and wellness.
Something magic happened once I took ownership and focused my energy on my health. I stopped crying everyday, I started hanging out with friends, and most importantly, I started getting my confidence back and actually LIKING myself again.
I knew then that my calling in life was to help women through health and fitness, but I wasn't sure where to start. So I enrolled in a health coaching program while still working in finance, and in early 2014, about half-way through the program, I had my first session with a trainer. I realized immediately that that was what I wanted to do.
So a couple months later I left my job at Goldman and became a trainer at Equinox (whooole other post for another day... changing careers at 30 is NOT easy).
Becoming a trainer forced me to get stronger physically (literally my job consisted of carry heavy things around all day), but what I never anticipated was the emotional strength that came with it. I often flash back to the girl sitting on my apartment floor crying because she wasn't strong enough, and realize now that it was so much more than just lacking the strength to lift the damn suitcase. I was crying because I didn't know how to stand up for myself, I wasn't strong enough to hold my own ground, and I wasn't brave enough to voice my opinion.
Lifting gave me that voice, it made me realize that I can do anything I set my mind to, and that I NEVER have to let myself be taken advantage of again. This is a gift I want to give every woman. This is why I do what I do. This is why I left a cushion-y finance job to build my own business. I never want any girl to be sitting on her apartment floor crying because she isn't strong enough for something.
Health to me is way beyond salads and numbers on a scale, it's LIFE. It's the difference between living life and MAKING a life. It's the difference between going through the motions, and LOVING the world you've created.
Most people don't actually know what feeling "good" even feels like. I didn't. But I will never go back now that I know what fueling your body with good food and pushing your limits in the gym feels like.
The diet industry does not make this easy, and is constantly preying on insecurities and failed attempts to reach perfection. This bothers me, this angers me actually, and is why I couldn't walk away from this career.
Watching someone lift something for the first time with strength they never knew they had is magical to me. I see this light go on like, OH, I actually AM stronger than I thought. What else can I do???
I truly believe that there is no stopping a woman who understands her own power, and I am making it my life's work to show as many women as I can, their true strength and capability.
This is why I got into coaching.