They’re fit. They’re high-energy. They’re encouraging. They’re always having a good time, even during the last painful 30-second sprint, interval or rep. They’re the amazing Chicago Athletic Club instructors, and I wish I could be just like them. But I’m just a normal gym goer who occasionally eats late-night McDonald’s the night before a hard workout (shhh.) I’m definitely not fitness goddess material like the CAC instructors.
I look up to the instructors, but I sometimes have to remind myself they’re just as human as the rest of us. They’re not super-human robots programed to exercise. They also experience temptations or challenges that threaten to derail their health and fitness goals.
Fitness instructors have a hard time turning down their favorite snacks. And have to push themselves through those last few reps. And have to juggle crazy-busy schedules. Their fitness god and goddess status doesn’t come easy. They’ve got to work hard for it, too!
To remind both myself and fellow gym goers that instructors are “just like us,” I asked them: What's your greatest challenge or temptation that sometimes gets in the way of your health? Here are a few of their answers.
Teaches at: Lakeview, Lincoln Square
My greatest challenge is getting enough sleep while I am subject to a busy schedule which changes often and includes several evening classes. As far as temptation goes, I have always followed an 80/20 healthy diet; 80 percent of the time I cook at home, a must to have control over making a delicious and nutritious meal, and 20 percent of the time I treat myself to what I want (Dark Chocolate not Hershey's, homemade chocolate chip cookies with Irish butter, not Chips Ahoy… you get the idea.) Because I treat myself, I really don't ever fight with temptation.
Teaches at: Bucktown, Lincoln Park, West Loop
The greatest temptation that gets in the way of my health is the belief that my exercise entitles me to eat whatever I want. After all, my head tells me, if I exercise, I feel like I've burned hundreds of thousands of calories that I can replace with whatever I want. I have proven my thinking wrong countless times.
Teaches at: Bucktown, West Loop, Wicker Park
Literally every single morning, there's a devil and angel conversation going on in my head. "If you skip your workout this morning then you could go home and enjoy your coffee!" says the devil. And the angel says, "But you would regret that! You won't have a chance to work out later today. And you know you're going to want some wine tonight."
It's not like I look forward to working out every day. Some days it's a struggle. Other days it's fun. But it usually involves some sort of internal dialogue talking myself into it.
I also love food and realize I will never look like Jillian Michaels if I continue to keep up with Chicago magazine’s hottest restaurant list. But I'm OK with that because I'm equally passionate about fitness and food. I truly believe it's all about balance.
Teaches at: Wicker Park
I think my greatest challenge is motivating myself to work as hard as I push my classes to work when I'm training on my own. It's not easy to do that extra rep, increase the incline or add a couple extra pounds to that bar when the only one that's holding you accountable is yourself.
It's even worse when you forget your headphones at home and don't have music to keep you energized! It's great to have a workout buddy or a trainer to help you stay on track.
Teaches at: Bucktown, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, West Loop, Wicker Park
I can't speak for all instructors and trainers, but what is true for me is that I was inspired to help others because a long time ago somebody helped me. As much as I love running now, I was not a track star or a soccer player growing up. I was the worst player on my softball team that I was not given a choice to join. I was the fat cheerleader, and I was the lead in the school play because I had talent, not because I was pretty.
When I moved to New York and quickly saw that dinner did not have to consist of pork steak, potatoes and buttery corn, a lot changed.
My kryptonite? To this day, M&Ms. And yes, I dedicate time on the treadmill or stepmill after I indulge -- full-on knowing that I can't undo the bad -- and will just try to make a better decision next time.
Ultimately, the voice inside my head must remain positive, and that's where my classes come in. If I can get a room full of 25 people to believe that yes, they can do 10 more burpees. When it gets hard for me, or when awkward, 15-year-old Stephanie returns in my brain, I channel a favorite moment from a class. We're all in this battle together.
Teaches at: Evanston, Lakeview, Lincoln Square
It is so rewarding to be squarely in my mid ‘40s able to teach a big load of classes in a wide range of formats. But trying to balance the gym with my day job, a relationship and a ton of personal projects yields precious little time for sleep or rest. I am tired -- a lot. I probably reach for caffeine as a solution too frequently. And, due to my on-the-go life, I subsist far too frequently on energy bars eaten while in motion, as opposed to a meal enjoyed and savored. I've lived “the other way:” slothful, smoking, out of control in my eating habits, sluggish and without hope. It was the most difficult thing I've ever done to discipline myself to change those habits, so... tired and mildly underfed? I'll take that any day of the week!
My greatest challenge with health is consuming enough of each food category on on a daily basis! And also, drinking enough water! Also as a result of dancing, I occasionally get shin splints. I tend to forget to stretch enough when the pain begin rather than stretching more!
Betsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter whose passion is telling the stories of entrepreneurs, brands and businesses that challenge the status quo. When she’s not biking or running all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria, you can find Betsy on Twitter at @betsym | betsymikel.com