Smoking a half pack a day was the norm, a full pack was a regular occurrence. I would eat whatever I liked, not what I needed and whenever I wanted to. It was not too difficult for me to pack away a bag of cookies or eat ice cream for supper. Vegetables? Fruit? All were optional and would often be left to spoil. Exercise was only saved for my weekly ball hockey night and I would only put in a half effort. I would often hit the wall playing and could never play to the level I would want. Sleep? Well, I would go to bed late and get up just in time to get to work. I didn’t care about my body, it was always there for me and I believed it would be there forever. That all changed one morning.
I can still remember it vividly. It was a Sunday morning and as I woke up I could barely breathe. It wasn’t a lung capacity thing, it was a gross scum in my throat. Scum from the pack of smokes that I buried the day before. I coughed it up, but there was more. This was starting to happen for awhile now but on this morning it was really persistent. I quickly realized that I was beginning to acquire the “smokers cough”. I was never so scared in my life! My body was fighting but the cigarettes and poor health choices were winning.
Rewind a year, it was Boxing Day. My 2-year-old son was as active as any child is at Christmastime. He wanted me to pick him up, throw him into the air and catch him, he wanted that quick moment of freedom. I had done it many times before and he comes to love it. So up he went and I caught him with ease but as I was putting him down I felt an enormous snap in my lower back. OUCH! That was my first ever experience with back pain and while it was uncomfortable at first, the next few days were pure agony. I can still remember going out onto my patio to have a smoke hunched over like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Yes, I was that desperate for a cigarette! I was pathetic. It took me over a year to recuperate from that back injury. My body was starting to fail me.
Fast forward to last year. I am now 4 years into my journey to a smoke-free life (I recommend the book Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Quit Smoking). I felt good… at least I thought. My back injury only flared up once in a while whenever I would do strenuous work. I felt I was doing OK. That was until my brain told me otherwise. I was overcoming a lot of life changes -very drastic life changes. Anxiety crept into my daily thoughts and I began a downward spiral that leads to me nearly contemplating ending it all. I was losing my mind and I had no idea why. I had to make one more change. My mind was rotting.
After about 6 months of contemplation and excuse setting, I decided to take the plunge. I decided to join a gym. I knew that I would not survive walking into just any anonymous gym filled with weights and a few treadmills. I needed personal motivation and I needed accountability. A bunch of my friends had joined a gym called 3rd Degree Training and were raving at how much the exercise, fitness and the overall community had become addictive and fun. Knowing that I had to do something with myself, I set my social anxieties and excuses aside and joined. I had no expectations going into this journey, just that I needed a change. What I wasn’t expecting were a complete mindset and body transformation. My mind and body thanked me.
I have been a member at 3rd Degree for a little over 6 months now. I have committed myself to do at least 4 (one hour) classes a week when I feel guilty about taking money and time away from my family to do this, I remember that this is an investment in me. If I want to get anything out of life, I need to put something into it. Over the past 6 months, I have noticed a dramatic change in my body’s overall fitness and I have noticed that I sleep so much better. My anxieties are now few and far between and my confidence (while challenged from time to time) have never been so high. My mindset is secure and I haven’t had this much energy since I was a child. Thanks to the tremendous community aspect of the 3rd Degree family, I have even begun to be more comfortable in social situations.
There are times when life gets me down -it happens to all of us. The thing is, it doesn’t take me long to rebound as I use my workouts as a way to “sweat it out”. When you have the tool of exercise and you realize it’s powers, your life becomes that much calmer and present in your day. Eating better only adds to your energy level and enables you to push even harder. It takes awhile, but once you find your groove you can not give up on this lifestyle. I am not professing to be the next bodybuilding champ or Olympic hopeful, but just getting out of your comfort zone, sweating and then eating with a purpose, you become a much more well-balanced person both in mind and spirit.
When I think back to the cigarette habit I had, the tubs of ice cream consumed, the chronic back pain and my anxiety filled mindset; I cannot believe how far I have come. While I have had to diligently put in the hard work both mentally and physically every day, I have 3rd Degree Training to thank for giving me the tools that I desperately needed to put all of my lifestyle changes into their rightful place. Thank you, Sabrina and all the peeps at 3rd Degree Training for doing what you do. You are making a difference in our lives and empowering us to make a difference in others.