Empowered, Fit, and Free

March 1, 2016


The Empowerment of a Fitness Mindset

The tattered, taped, and corner-torn box that once held a favorite pair of shoes, now stored the harrowing reminders of a wished-forgotten past. The box was kept stowed away in a darkened corner of a hallway closet. There were days she considered burning the contents to ash. On others, she found solace in knowing they were there. Like her shrouded memories and faded scars they were reminders her past was real. There was comfort in knowing they were under her control. She commanded the key. The memories and remnants kept out of sight were hers to reveal, regardless how easily they could be retrieved.

She didn’t share this side of herself often. Only a few knew. Sometimes, those who had fallen like she once fell, needed to hear her story. Sometimes, they just needed to see.

Inside were the photos. The journals. The court records documenting a history of violence she had been forced to endure. Before she had grown strong. Before being kicked-in-the-ribs out of her boyfriends apartment left her broken and crying in a high-rise hallway. Before she mustered the strength to stand up, walk away, and never look back. Before she had discovered the inner strength to reclaim her childhood dream.

To watch her now, one would never suspect she was a survivor of unimaginable harm. It would be difficult to envision her curled up and crying in the middle of the floor. Fearful of a fateful end. Because, those days were behind her now. She was a victim no more. She would never be again. Today, her story is one of empowerment, and strength, and capacity of character that exemplifies her limitless potential.

Like all eventual triumphs, she first had to travel an unrelenting road to recovery. There were trials (yes, courtroom trials) and tribulations (of varying degrees,) but in the end, she emerged victorious. It wasn’t easy. Mustering the strength to do a single push-up. Nurturing the emotional willingness to say “no” without negotiation. Learning to once again walk away without regret.

To look ever forward to the promise of tomorrow. To embrace a maturity of mind that affords one to endure disappointment without the corresponding demotion of self worth. She was a survivor. A winner. And as all winners know: Winning requires work.

It all started with a morning run. At first it was just around the block. Then down the street. Each day further than the day before. She could feel herself growing physically stronger and mentally tougher with every step she took. Every stride she stretched. Every breath she released. Until one day she ran so fast and far that she finally broke free. Free from the guilt. Free from the pain. Free from the worry of harm her soul had worn too long.

Women of wonder walk among us. Women who never quit. Women whose passion and strength raise roofs, build bridges, and give rise to new worlds. Real women, living real lives, with real struggles who utilize their own “fitness mindset” to promote a positive empowerment throughout all aspects of their life. Their reflections tell an overarching narrative of empowerment, intelligence, and strength from a fitness-centric and empowerment-minded perspective.

These are their honest, raw, and relatable contributions that help to inspire a desire to rise up, push back, lean-in, and run free. They drive others to discover their own inner-strength hidden behind the false walls in their own souls. Women who motivate others to be more than they are. Who set ablaze the kindling of achievement to accomplish nothing less than what they dare to dream.

These are their stories:

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“We can all do a little better each day to improve our health physically, mentally and socially,” says Alexia Clark, an Arizona-based celebrity fitness trainer and nutritionist. “Fitness is not only about how we look, it is also about how we feel, love and inspire each other.”

A 1 hour workout is 4% of your day that will change 100% of your life.

“There is a difference between having a fitness mindset and being a ‘gym junkie.’ What I’ve noticed most about being a fitness trainer is the positive affect fitness has on my clients. To watch as their overall outlook on life becomes more optimistic with each workout. Setting a fitness goal is a journey of self-discovery. It doesn’t matter if you’re working toward doing your first push-up or training for your first marathon. When you set a fitness goal, you learn about how to overcome obstacles. You discover the secret to inner strength that’s been hiding in your soul…just waiting to help you become a better you. We start small. Then we build. Slow and strong. Having a fitness mindset is about setting a realistic goal, and then not stopping until you get there.

“What’s also great about training clients is watching as their fitness goals help promote their life goals. I see how their fitness mindset empowers them in their relationships. I see how it helps them aspire to be better at work. Most incredibly, I see how their workouts help them to work through those darker times. The ones we all sometimes face. The breakups. The struggles. The things we wanted so much to go our way, and for whatever reason, don’t go the way we planned. In both workouts and in life, we have bad days. But having a fitness mindset is about having control over our minds and our bodies. It means knowing that just because we had a bad experience, it doesn’t mean we’re a bad person. These obstacles are just another challenge for us to overcome. Because everyday we step out of bed we are one step closer to reaching your goals. That’s why I encourage my clients to focus on right now. Today, you are stronger than yesterday. You are stronger this week than you were last month—and tomorrow—you’ll be even stronger. As long as you dedicate some time everyday toward working out on you, I promise you will get to your goals.” (Instagram: @alexia_clark / Twitter: @alexiaBclark)

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“The Miss America Organization gave me two gifts: a platform to bring a controversial issue to center stage; and the courage to advocate for domestic violence prevention in front of a larger audience,” says Amelia Wolf, a DC-based political professional and a second year Masters Candidate at The George Washington University. “I realized that winning the Miss District of Columbia crown came with the opportunity to reach out to a lot young men and women with my story of dating violence. My hope was they could learn from my experience and gain a greater understanding of how violence can sneak into a young relationship. The truth is, domestic violence can and does happen to everyone. I wanted to dispel the common misconception that violence doesn’t happen to the “seemingly pretty and perfect people.”

The stronger I became physically, the more I felt like I had the mental fortitude to excel in the other areas of my life.

“My outreach combines social media and fitness to empower women to overcome domestic violence.
I wanted to use my love of fitness to inspire other survivors. In my own life, I found that being active and dedicating myself to getting physically stronger in the midst of my break-up helped me to redevelop my self-esteem. Fitness helped to elevate my sense of purpose. The stronger I became physically, the more I felt like I had the mental fortitude to excel in the other areas of my life. I chronicled my journey on Instagram and on my blog, and now use the hashtag #StrongerThanDV to post inspirational messages and inform the public about domestic violence. My life advice? Do your squats; eat your vegetables; wear red lipstick, and don’t let boys be mean to you.” (Instagram: @WolfOfDC / Twitter: @WolfofDC)

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“Running has always been a big part of my life. It’s a major contributor to not just my physical health, but also my psychological well being,” says Colleen Scoles, a Talent Acquisition Manager with the Philadelphia Eagles.

I value my runs as a time where I have complete control over where I am going.

“In a world where there are so many things out of our control, I value my runs as a time where I have complete control over where I am going with the added value of making my body stronger. The feeling of accomplishment after finishing a race or running a long distance on my own is one that has boosted my confidence tremendously.”

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“We are not born beautiful. We are not born strong, powerful, or brilliant,” says Alison Gaul, a patent attorney, philanthropist, and startup supporter in Washington, DC. “We, all of us, women and men, short and tall, black and white, are born soft, gentle, infants; a blank slate upon which the world may imprint wonder, knowledge, fear, hate, and love. We must develop beauty, strength, knowledge, and even power.”

We can build our own beauty, one sit-up, one article read, and one confident breath at a time.

“Strength is built one sit-up at a time, one minute of meditation, one yoga pose, one mile pedaled on a bike. Knowledge is built one page of a book read, one class attended, one discussion engaged. Power is built from knowing enough to know yourself, your strengths, and all the obstacles you can overcome. Beauty isn’t bought at a make-up counter or a clothing store, it’s the glow of self-confidence that radiates from the powerful, the brilliant…the strong. We can build our own beauty, one sit-up, one article read, and one confident breath at a time.” (Twitter: @AllisonGaul)

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These stories are not one-time tales. They are the ties that bind. The common threads woven through the many lives of similar struggle and cultured circumstance. At some time or another, we will all fall. Some falls will hurt more than others. Some falls hurt us to our very core. But the darkness by which we are all sometimes embraced, instills within us the very measure of who we are. For it is in those moments we see with newfound clarity, that the strength it takes to truly heal comes not from a willingness to climb our way up, but in reaching our own hands down to where we once hung below.

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