Who was the sadist who thought it was a good idea to line little kids up on the playground, choose two team captains (who were always the most popular kids) and have them choose kids to be on their team. “Please don’t let me be the last one chosen” I’m sure went through a lot of little minds.
More times than not, it would come down to me and JJ—me, the shy kid who couldn’t throw a ball if her life depended on it and JJ, the fat kid. A bond was forged on that play ground that endures to this day.
Years went by—and life happened. JJ and I found that standing together and encouraging one another could give us both strength and take us places we never even imagined back on that playground.
Dealing with a marriage falling apart and my daughter’s anorexia, I had put on a lot of weight. JJ, always having a weight problem, by 50, was wheelchair bound, unable to walk or live independently.
I knew I needed to take better care of myself so I joined a gym. I was fortunate enough to work with a trainer who taught me the importance of strength training. As I found myself getting stronger physically, I found myself becoming stronger emotionally as well and gaining self-confidence. I finally had the strength to get a divorce.
On JJ’s 50th birthday, her health had deteriorated to the point she was hospitalized. The doctors and physical therapist basically gave up on her and told her she would never walk again. I was so ANGRY! I knew from the strength training that I was doing that you could regain muscle and I thought the right exercise could help JJ.
On a visit with JJ, I took some dumbbells with me. She told me later she thought I’d lost my mind. I showed her some things I’d learned at the gym and encouraged her to find a nutritionist who could help her find the right nutrition plan for her.
JJ started getting stronger and losing weight. By Christmas, six months after she was told she would never walk again, she took her first steps in over two years.
One day I was complaining, as I admit I sometimes do, about how dissatisfied I was with my job as a legal assistant. Being a good friend, JJ listened patiently, and asked me why didn’t I quit my job if I was so unhappy. “And do what?” I asked. “Why don’t you become a personal trainer?” Now I knew JJ had lost her mind.
“You were in gym class with me. You, of all people, should know how unathletic I am. Besides, I’m 50—that’s just too old to start a career like that.”
“But people like me need people like you to help us.” Ok, she guilted me into at least finding out what the best personal training certification was and send for the material. The books sat in the box for six months. “I must be crazy to think I can do this at my age” I kept thinking. But I finally got the books out of the box, studied, took my personal trainer exam and to my amazement—passed!
I had no idea what the next step was that I should take. Once again, JJ came to my rescue with her advice. “Why don’t you write a letter to a gym?” So I did and they actually offered me a part-time job as a personal trainer. I had found my passion and my purpose in life.
In the meantime, JJ was getting stronger, losing weight and decided she wanted to move to California and live near the beach—a dream she’d had since she first heard the Beach Boys as a teenager. She loaded up her van and it was California or bust.
I was still working fulltime as a legal assistant and part-time as a personal trainer but I knew I wanted to do personally training fulltime. I was offered a personal training job in another city. It was a scary prospect so I called JJ, and once again her advice was just what I needed, “If you don’t try, you’ll always wonder,” she said. I quit my job, sold my condo and moved to a city where I knew NO ONE. The stars must have been aligned and I met the right people, started my own personal training business, became a healthy lifestyle coach and new doors keep opening.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Lisa, the person who took a chance on hiring a trainer with no experience (and really had no idea what she was doing) why she took a chance on me. “I saw your passion,” she told me, “and you still have it.”
As for JJ, she lives about five minutes from the beach—went from being unable to live independently and take care of herself—to living on her own and owning her own boutique.
JJ and I may have been the last two standing together on that playground—and we’re still standing—today we’re standing strong.