Part 1 of the Paula Lean Intro discussed the importance of quality food for health & well being but that is only part of the equation; without lifelong vigorous exercise you will never reach your potential or look and feel your best. The ideal time to introduce exercise or functional movement in your life is at the beginning but one is never too old to start. . .
Part 2: The Fitness
I had a typical and active childhood running and playing outside as I grew up in a small town in the 60’s & 70’s before the advent of video games. Girl’s sports weren’t all that heavily promoted at the small high school I attended and I didn’t play any. My first exposure to ‘working out’ came in the summer of 1978 when a friend and I joined Art Bedway’s Fitness Center for 3 months over the summer. I discovered my triceps as they quickly popped out and it was love at first lift but off to college I went and fitness took a back seat until around 1985 after landing in Tampa when I got a membership at Mademoiselle Fitness. My workout program consisted of the popular step classes wearing matching leg warmers.
Fast forward to age 34. Late in 1994 I saw a picture of myself on a boat drinking a beer while on vacation and came to the stark realization that things were not as firm as they used to be and I needed some direction in life. That served as a call to action and time to get serious. One month before my 35th birthday I hired a personal trainer 1 day a week and continued to work out at my local “gym” – an all ladies facility which had changed owners and was now called Shapes. That garnered me some knowledge and I began my transformation.
After about 6 months I saw a woman at the gym that had dramatically altered her physique when she turned to body building. I was in awe and immediately dismissed the other trainer who after 6 months told me “you look great, what more could you possibly hope to achieve”? Really, dude—you have no idea, I am just getting started. Well he was out and Cheryl was in; with her guidance I set a goal for a body building competition one year out and went to work. I had a plan, a goal and direction and guidance. Cheryl worked out at a raw, hardcore gym called AFC (Athlete’s Fitness Center)—which I promptly joined.
It was a long year of relentless pursuit, determination, obstacles and many other things that helped create a better Paula. I placed 2nd in the novice division of the Tampa Bay Classic in 1997 and while it was a wonderful experience competing at 98# in a world of much larger and often enhanced women was not for me. I looked much better with the addition of muscle and I was a new person with the confidence I found behind the steel. Cheryl and I continued to train together and became close friends. 1 year later she talked me into doing a women’s fitness competition where you ran a 160 yard obstacle course, performed 3 fitness skills and a grace & physique round. Never an athlete I finished it with a miserable time of 1:26 on the course, didn’t feel good about myself and wanted nothing to do with it. I was afraid to flip over the cargo net and was tired of walking down it. I stepped away from competing and that haunted me for the next 5 years.
In 2000 I turned 40 and decided that I could spend not another day in a job that I hated – a practicing dental hygienist for over 10 years. It had a few good points – a nice dentist, nice patients, 4 day work week and decent pay. But I hated it. My love of fitness continued to grow, I had acquired a personal training certification and friends were always asking me for help. How wonderful it would be to do this for a living. So in June 2000 when an opportunity arose as a personal trainer at a private studio I jumped on it. It was a large pay decrease and my hourly work week doubled. But it was worth it—there were never any regrets.
In June 2002 with zero knowledge of business and marketing armed only with my personal training skills and my passion for food and fitness I went into debt and opened a private studio with a partner I barely knew. Talk about mistakes, I can’t even count how many I made not to mention a 3 year war with the partner that my husband to this day will tell me “I told you so” and had to valiantly jump in and “fight all your battles for you PJ”. Whatever my ‘knight in shining armor’, we’re in this together dear.
I continued to grow as a trainer by acquiring my NSCA CPT and CSCS certifications in 2002 and 2007 respectively but the cargo net failure was still haunting me. Cheryl and I had went in different fitness directions so in 2004 I hired Lori Ann Lloyd–Queen of the Obstacle course, privately trained with her for 6 months and then signed up for another Women’s Tri Fitness competition after I had successfully flipped the net. In 2005 the war with the partner ended and I was the sole owner of the fitness studio. I continued to compete in the WTF comps and accomplished my 10 year goal of running that course in under a minute with a score of 59:69 in 2007. Nothing overly impressive but I could now go to my grave in peace. Sidelined by a knee injury in Sept 2007 and a second surgery I “retired” to focus on my business.
Which was not doing very well as the economy continued to plummet along with my “challenged” state of health & mind while on a vegetarian diet. In Nov 2008 a friend suggested I try a CF class. I had never heard of it but went to their website, then to their facility. After walking in to the un air conditioned “box” with chalkboard walls, ropes hanging from the ceiling, bumper plates stacked everywhere and a gruff looking ex military coach with a devilish gleam in his eyes I was hooked. Their motto of “suck it up buttercup” became my new mantra. One class was all it took – that was exactly what I was looking for. After a mere 2 weeks I signed up for my Level 1 cert, applied for affiliation and became CF Jaguar in Jan 2009. Gone were the towels and handing clients weights, we turned off the AC, ripped out the ceiling tiles, put in pull up bars and got some big tires. “Fitness” just took on a whole new meaning.
It’s been a unique and wonderful experience ever since. Some clients initially left with the changes but for every one of them 10 new ones came in and we began to build a community of fit and like minded individuals that wanted more out of their lives than they had and were not afraid to work hard, sweat, bleed and cry sometimes and emerge victorious. We outgrew our 2700 sf retail space and moved into a 10,000 sq ft warehouse in July of 2013. I am truly blessed for we could never have made this move without our incredible group of members – our community.
At 54 years of age my goals from a fitness standpoint have changed significantly over the decades. I no longer desire to compete but I want to look as fit as I can and be functional, able to do the things I love, stay healthy and continue this quality of life into my later years. I do not want to end up in a home or ALF, I don’t’ want to be on drugs aka “medication” with all their toxic side effects.
The vast majority of chronic diseases in America are preventable. While genetics do play a part they are out of our control. Diet and exercise are within our control. The quality of life you can enjoy in your later years is directly related to your exercise and nutritional habits throughout your life—for the damage is cumulative.
Paula Lean is who I have become through a transformational journey of both food and fitness over the last 2 decades as I learned to hurdle my self imposed limitations. And while the path is not easy nor the same for all, most of us will find that diet and exercise–it really is enough. . .