One late summer evening in 2008, my then roommate came bursting into the apartment with extra exuberance and excitement than her normal. Roomie was a dancer. A salsa dancer to be exact. She had a passion and drive for life that, when coupled with her big heart and personality, meant that whatever she was passionate about, everyone in her life knew about it and probably joined her. Her new adventure, the one she was simply bursting to tell us about, was a new chiropractor's office and 'wellness' place she found.
"and he looked at my x-rays and said i was in a car accident when I was sixteen and because of my dancing that my hips are all goofy and then i laid down on the table and all my makeup came off and he cracked my neck and ohmygod it felt so good and you have to go and they do these seminars about eating well and being organic and they are so so so nice and do yoga..and....." She went on and on. A few weeks later, I'm attending an Eight Weeks to Wellness Orientation with her parents, our neighbor, and her. And I was suckered in. This was maybe my first introduction into this concept of healthy living and making choices about your food and body that will allow your body to be, well, better. Honestly, I was just happy to have something to do after work at that point.
Part of this program was an assessment with a personal trainer at the wellness solutions center. I was running maybe three times a week for about 45 minutes at the time. And not really doing it well. I was excited and nervous for the appointment. The trainer looked like a walking, talking Ken Doll. It was kinda freaky. I don't remember what we did or how the appointment went. I will always always remember Trainer Ken watching me attempt push ups and saying, "You're deceptively weak."
Deceptively weak. Oh. Ouch. This was admittedly not the best period of time for me. I was lonely and unhappy with a lot of circumstances in my life. To be referred to as deceptively weak when one was already emotionally and spiritually weak was more painful than the push ups.
"Deceptively weak" wrinkled my brain. It secretly pissed me off enough that I had to do something. I would not be weak. I decided to train for a real run. I joined a gym. I slowly learned to value and care for my body and soul. I learned to love sweating and working out. I signed up with a real trainer. (She looked like a Barbie doll but was sweet and helpful.) I ran half marathons. My body changed. My outlook changed. I started taking karate classes. I changed. I starting coaching Girls on the Run. I started and finished graduate school.
I ran a freaking' marathon.
Despite the Ken Doll trainer's harsh words, I kept going to the same chiropractor's office. The chiropractor gave me a pass for another free appointment with a new trainer (Ken has since left the practice) after hearing about my marathon victory and the surprising pain I felt from a 'squishy' midsection while running.
As soon as my body felt recovered enough for a work out, I returned to the site of the "Deceptively Weak" crime. The new trainer and I worked on my core muscles and he gave me a lot of really good advice for runners. He was impressed that I had run a marathon, didn't question my time, or give me that "you're a runner" side-eye I sometimes get. He was interested in my karate practices. He spoke to me like I was a legitimate person with knowledge and credibility. It was crazy.
As I was leaving, he said,
"You're clearly an athlete."
I went from "deceptively weak" to "clearly an athlete." I felt as proud and as relieved in that fitness center as I did at the finish line of the marathon. The marathon was part of a journey away from weakness, away from sadness and towards strength, towards health, and life. "Clearly an athlete." Huh. I'm clearly strong. Clearly. From deceptive to clearly. From weak to athlete. It's been QUITE a journey. It's incredible to realize the power words can have over us. Deceptively weak taunted me through long runs, weight reps, and chicken kicks. Clearly an athlete has provided some kind of validation for the past three years of hard work and sacrifice more than finisher's medal or new pair of jeans ever could. The burden to 'prove it' had some how lifted. I might not be the strongest person in the world, but dammit, I'm not weak.
Disclaimer: I'm not an athlete in the professional sense and I'm certainly do not consider myself to be anything more than recreational runner. My hobby just happens to be a sport. I have respect for true athletes whose lives are dedicated to their sport.