The True Power of Inner Strength
By BRETT HOEBEL
During one of my recent anti-bullying talks at a middle school, one of the girls, who courageously shared her tearful experience of being bullied, asked me afterwards what I meant when I said "Fitness From Within." There was something about her, about the look in her eye, that made me pause and remember what it was like as a teenager struggling with my own issues. So I sat down with her and shared some of my difficult experiences growing up and how my philosophy of "Fitness From Within" changed my life.
She didn't believe me when I told her that I used to be a "heavy" teenager struggling with my weight and self-confidence, until I showed her a photo of me at age 14 and 50 pounds overweight. She broke out into laughter. Chuckling with her I said, "I can laugh about it now, too; but it wasn't funny when I was your age." She apologized, but couldn't stop staring at the photo.
"How did you do it?" she asked. "How did you lose all the weight?" I thought for a minute then said, "With tears and hard work...fitness was my freedom and helped me build inner strength. That strength turned my pain into passion and changed my life."
There's something universal about overcoming pain. It doesn't matter how old you are, where you come from, or whether you're a man or a woman. We all have the same decision to make: We can let the pain destroy us, or we can turn it into something positive to let it drive us.
Are You Willing to Work Hard?
I used to look at other kids and convince myself that their "better" bodies were all because of good luck or genetics. I had those thoughts on a daily basis. I didn't like what I saw in the mirror, so if I met someone who wasn’t ashamed to look in the mirror, it was easier to tell myself they were "given" that body instead of having to earn it.
I was projecting my insecurities, and the reality was that I was lying to myself, binge eating and not working out. I wanted to be fit, but wasn't willing to face the truth or work hard for it. Can you relate?
It's Really All in Your Head
Or at least most of the times. There are a few folks who have legitimate medical conditions, but most of us don't fall into that category. I spent years convincing myself that I didn't have a weight problem, and then later I allowed myself to believe that I had been dealt a bad hand and there wasn’t anything I could do to change my body. This continued until I met a kid in my Karate dojo (someone who was more overweight than me), and he changed my perception forever. I will never forget sparring him my first day in class. I thought he would be slow and out of shape. I misjudged his body for his heart, and I left that day getting my butt handed to me in the dojo.
The next year, I entered middle school and started wrestling. There weren't enough kids on our team, so the three of us who made the team started wresting with the high school kids. I became known as "the fat kid that didn't know he was fat." They nicknamed me that because I refused to let my weight define me, and as each opponent misjudged me for my weight, they ended up on their back, staring at the lights as I pinned them down. That year taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life: your weight does not define you, what people say or do does not define you, the only things that define you are your belief in yourself and your actions.
Once You Believe in Yourself, You Will Be Set Free
Once I started taking responsibility for myself, for my eating, and for my training, my belief in myself started to change. Instead of coming up with excuses of why I couldn't get fit, I came up with solutions of how I would get fit. It's never really a question of "Can you do it?" it's a matter of "Will you do it?" And this is where inner strength begins.
You may have heard that life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you respond to it. For me, fitness was my freedom, and fitness is 10 percent information that you know about it, and 90 percent what you do with that information. You have to take action. Walk the talk. When I started my fitness journey, there were days when I wanted to give up, but something inside of me wouldn't let me quit, something inside had caught fire. I wanted payback, I wanted to be free...I wanted to kiss a girl for the first time! So I trained harder and all the sweat and tears gave me strength. Inner strength.
Fitness from Within
If it doesn't challenge you, it won't make you stronger. The most valuable things in life are the ones we earn. If you want more inner strength, then challenge yourself more. Fitness is the fastest and most sure way I know to build inner strength because every workout, every set, every rep, you are faced with either dealing with the pain or quitting. When you face the pain, the fatigue and the fear, you grow stronger. What gave me strength was fitness. Fitness from within.
Readers - What gives you inner strength? What have been your challenges? Share your story by leaving us a comment below.
Celebrity Fitness & Motivation expert Brett Hoebel was a trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, health expert on Food Network's Fat Chef, and judge on Fit or Flop: America's Next Fitness Star. Brett is the creator of the 20 Minute Body™, RevAbs® from Beachbody, and frequently blogs for LIVESTRONG.COM, US News, Eleven By Venus and other prominent media outlets. He regularly appears on TV shows like Dr. Oz and The Talk to discuss topics such as weight loss, bullying and emotional obstacles, and contributes to national publications like SELF and Fitness Magazine.