My Fitness Journey p.1

ICYMI, I did my first powerlifting meet last October in Houston with my brother-in-law. It was the most terrifying, intimidating, exhausting, exhilarating, motivating thing I have ever done. Throughout the training, the prepping, the cutting, and the meet itself, I saw myself transform — more mentally than physically.

I’ve started doing basic weightlifting since my senior year of high school, kinda drew back my freshman year of college, and then went head first back into it half way through my sophomore year. To be frank, I got addicted to the rush of the workouts, the soreness the day after, the thrill of hitting new maxes. It became more than a hobby.

I should mention that I credit a lot of my passion for the gym to my sister. She’s the one that really got me into it, even when we were just doing Jillian Michaels videos in high school. Fast forward to now and she’s a beast in the best way — personal fitness trainer and nationally qualified bodybuilder. I used to tag along with her and my mom to the gym every Sunday my junior/senior year, always seeing what they would do for various muscle groups, following along, etc. By my senior year, I started to make my workouts a more common thing, as in going more than once a week. And by that summer, I was going at least 4 times a week.

Prior to weight lifting, I thought that the elliptical and fruit smoothies would get me to the finish line. In case you were wondering, I was dead wrong. It only left me hungry and frustrated. Granted, I was in my mid-teens and only doing it so I would have something to do while waiting for my sister to finish. But I thought all my research would do it. I remember one time in high school, like middle of my junior year, where I read in some health magazine about a smoothie cleanse. You would have one hefty smoothie for each meal, a liquid diet essentially, and it was supposed to help you drop 1-3 pounds a week; though, it was recommended you only did it for 3 days at a time. I was gnawing on wood by the middle of the first day. Homegirl’s never been one for dieting, honestly. But I so desperately thought I needed to ‘lose the weight.’ Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. I tried to keep up at the gym, at least a day or two a week.

Summer before college started, I began to go to the gym around 4 times a week. I didn’t have a schedule other than work, and I made it work. I’d ask my sister for questions as needed, but stuck to a pretty basic workout. I kept it up consistently, even seeing some progress by August and getting old classmates asking if I had lost weight. I started to really feel ownership of the body I had either hated or pushed aside for so long. Oddly enough, I entered a pretty serious relationship at the end of summer as well, and I began to focus on it a lot more than I cared to admit. By Christmas, I had gained a bit of weight back, despite being in a GE Physical Fitness class on campus.

Thankfully, both he and I really wanted to get back on track, so we started going to the gym more consistently again, sometimes together, sometimes not. But it really made a difference. I spent that spring and summer at the gym and fell in love with it again, genuinely. I started to gain some muscle and get some workouts down. But I still wasn’t satisfied with myself. This led me to BBG: Body Building Guides by Kayla Itsines. I found a 12 week program, meal guide included, for around $30 on an off-site. The workouts were 3 days of 30 minutes HIIT training, alternating legs, core, arms, and full body, and 3 days of 30-45 minutes LISS or HIIT cardio. I always chose the LISS (and still do!). The meal preps were actually pretty fun and got me into the kitchen a lot more. Fast forward to the end of the 12 weeks, I was down two-three sizes and almost 20 pounds.

The secret to that loss? Low calories and high heart rates. I lost a bit of weight, yes, but I also lost a lot of muscle too. That long-term-turned-long-distance-and-almost-engaged relationship ended on the 11th week, and I took a week off from the gym (and everything else, including food). The following week I finished the workouts and felt really accomplished. But, looking back, I was also really fragile — both emotionally and physically. I was using the gym as a crutch in the worst way and thought eating less would further me somehow.

I went to Oregon for about five days a week after I finished BBG. I didn't really have the resources to continue the workouts or the diets, so I gave myself a short break. By the time I got back home and settled in (about two weeks off BBG), the band had snapped and I was back to fluctuating weight and inches coming back. I quickly realized that quick-fix solutions and all that shabang is not worth it and do not have long-lasting results. So I tried something a little different.

** Part two coming soon.

DeAndra Merrills