Before & After: Beyond the Walls

This before and after might just be my favorite I’ve ever done. Not just for the look, but the fact that the meaning behind it goes much deeper. There’s a hell of a lot more for me to show than just the surface of these four orange walls. 

My roots to a brick & mortar gym stem back as long as I can remember. As a teenager, I lifted with a personal trainer my Mom also went to, coupled with weekly workouts in my high school gym as a 2 sport (volleyball & softball) Varsity athlete. 

Once I moved to Madison for college, I worked hard to maintain my status quo as both gym rat by day, bar rat by night. Ultimately I hung up the shot glasses instead of the towel, as I continued to bounce around memberships in the Big Box gyms throughout my 20’s. 

It is here I stayed until I was postpartum baby #1 and everything started to shift (and I mean ev-ery-th-ing);). I walked into the doors of a small local gym called Orange Shoe where I never turned back around. Workouts were effective and enjoyable. Trainers were top notch. The community is where I found my people. 

I dug down deep and had no intention of going anywhere else (ever!). This gym carried me through my next 3 pregnancies, was there to help soften the blow as I humbly recovered after each one, and guided me to new strengths each time. Before I knew it, I was 7 years into calling this place my second home. My confidence and overall health was soaring like it had never been before; the relationships I formed with trainers and new friends from the gym unbroken; my passion and desire for fitness ignited.

There was no reason for me to ever want to work out at home. I turned my nose up at the pure thought of home workouts, that it was as gross as a sippy cup of rotten milk hidden under the couch pillow by one of the precious tiny humans. WHO in their right mind would ever want to work out at home where motivation lacks and those same needy, tiny humans are plentiful and in.your.face? 

A home gym was not for me- it was never in my past, very unwanted for my present, and not even a glimpse of my future.

Until everyone’s browser all the sudden had a top new word search: social distancing. 

The impact that Covid brought to the fitness industry was big. Big in a way that no one saw coming, gym owners and gym go-er’s alike. What was once my sanctuary of sanity, was now obsolete for weeks upon weeks. It may sound a bit extreme, but honestly, a large piece of me went missing. Those that truly love their gym and the people will understand more where I’m coming from here, but I think we can all relate to this on one level or another. I was left scrambling, like many of you, to make new ends meet. 

And my new ends, in relation to the fitness world, were not pretty. Equipment at home was sparse and almost impossible to get your hands on during that time, so creativity became the driver of at-home my workouts. Unplanned (and frankly, unwelcome) breaks to help the kids before, during, and after every set were my new norm. All of the elements I admittedly took for granted at Orange Shoe (because who ever thought we’d live through a pandemic?!), all the sudden had me begging for them back. 

I don’t use this word much but it is the best one I can think of to describe working out at home: I hated it. I was bored, unmotivated, and always interrupted in all of my workouts. 

But I had no choice as we all navigated through shut downs and quarantines. No one knew when ‘normal’ would exist again, so I reluctantly started to change my narrative to match the changing times. 

I didn’t have to work out at home…. I got to.

And slowly, my fire came back. I lifted weights even if my dumbbells were from the 1980’s; I ran dreaded intervals on the tred no matter how lonely they felt; I begrudgingly hopped on the Peloton bike after waiting months for it to arrive.

A change in mindset, a small shift in words, is all it took. Because physically, I had lost nothing. But mentally, my fuel had been on empty. 

Embracing the play food being delivered to me to “eat” during breaks, the legos being dodged during walking lunges, and the nerf bullets being shot at my head during chest presses had its challenges, don’t get me wrong. I realized it was a change for my kids too, so I met them in the middle. We took each workout one at a time, together, until we all got used to it. 

And then, it was worth it. I felt lucky to be able to work out from home. 

To walk down the stairs to workout still in pj’s, hair in a mess. To save myself the drive to and from the gym, which in a house of getting 6 people ready in the early morning hours, every minute matters. To be in space that was all mine… 

Mmmm, nope. Back it up. 

It wasn’t all mine. Far from it, actually. Because my workout room was basically a playroom with a few dumbbells thrown in it and a treadmill shoved in the corner. 

So even though I was trying, and embracing, and doing all the things at home- as soon as those Orange Shoe doors opened back up, I went running. I was back in a room with all my favorite people and that felt more right than anything. But the rest just wasn’t the same and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it (I still can’t).

I surprisingly craved the time at home. (Say whaaaat?!) How could I want to be working out back at home, after missing my gym so much? I got it back. Why wouldn’t I want to stay back? 

Because I had uncovered something new at home, and I wasn’t done exploring that yet. I wavered back and forth awhile, avoiding an extremely tough decision, until I knew what I had to do. I made the permanent switch to working out at home, along with seeing my trainer two times a week at his new gym…

(About the same time, he also had made the career move to self-employ his own training business. Which happens to be 0.4 miles from my house; what can I say, when the gym Gods speak, they speak damn clearly).

Fast forward another year. I found my groove with my home workouts, trading off mostly between walking and progressive overload blocks (again, God blessing me with the best trainer!), as I also was gradually able to add more dumbbells and gym toys. 

However, after putting up with my half-ass workout room for far too long, it was time to finally own it. To create a space with my bare hands, wanting to feel the same empowerment I do as when I pick up a pair of 40 pound dumbbells in there.

So in the last month, I tore up the carpeting and laid the gym mat flooring; I tweaked equipment and hung what was needed; I went bold on paint color and fell more in love with each wall I finished; I designed and built a mirror frame from scratch, that might just be the best feature in the room. 

I did have to call in a couple reinforcements for execution purposes (turns out my measuring skills are sub par, to say the least). But this project? I’m insanely proud of. 

I did it.

Floor to ceiling. Wall to wall. Start to finish. 

The exact same way I am continuously building myself- my physical strength, my emotional well being, my mental health. And now doing it within these fresh, four walls of my very own home gym.

I am beyond thrilled how my gym turned out and even more excited to see where it’s going to take me. I have some plans on the horizon, big goals within reach. But one thing I promise to not lose sight of every time I am in this space:

The only way I am able to be in the position I am today, is because of my past experience. A health journey, a progression through fitness goals, only happens when we allow ourselves the time to do so. 

Time to be living in the stage that we need to stay living. To let what works in the moment, remain working. To make all the connections, keep connecting. 

All so that we know how to learn and grow, how to let go and hold tight. So that when the time does come, we will be ready to move on. 

And when we do take that next move forward? We appreciate each past step while we aim for our future, interlocking them in the most unique and powerful way that allows us to be an even better version of ourselves.

Quite simply, our past will always dictate our future. My fitness journey is no different, and I am so grateful for it. 

Which is exactly why my own home gym ended up with walls that are orange. 

Until next time🧡