My name is Lee Eckensweiler.
I am a full time Personal Trainer at Goodlife Fitness in Guelph, Ontario. Yes… you read that correctly… Goodlife Fitness: where core values like Integrity and Passion are replaced by the presence of disposable trainers and contracts that sign your paychecks away.
A summary of Goodlife and my experiences within its facility can be left for a future blog post. I would like to dedicate this post to a little background on myself.
I studied Kinesiology and Applied Nutrition at two different post secondary locations. Lakehead University in the far north and in my home town at the University of Guelph. Long before getting some education, in the early years of high school, I used to wake up hours before my day at school started and I would pedal my way to the YMCA, crack open whatever book I recently picked up from the Guelph Public Library (with a title like “How To Get a Big Chest”) and educate myself on what I believed to be a quick solution to my “skinny” dilemma.
Lacking the hand-eye co-ordination required in team sports I focused my efforts on the cross country team in high school. Running daily and attempting countless calorie restricted diets kept me very thin and unable to put on any muscle. I had a deep infatuation in developing a visible 6-pack and diminishing the cortisol-belly I had formed over the years. I knew that running would burn calories. I figured it was as simple as calories in and calories out. Little did I know that my over-training and lack of calories were just making it worse. Had I known that more muscle would have made it easier for me to lose the belly fat I would have done almost the opposite.
What was I doing correctly?
Well… I was educating myself on a variety of weight training exercises and spending countless early mornings practicing. Although I was not developing much muscle, I was developing a habit. In order to commit myself to weight training at 5 am five days a week I gave myself a solid base of self discipline. I could not go a day without some sort of exercise. Running, weight training or biking. What started out as a seemingly engaging and productive hobby turned into an obsession and slowly consumed my life.
A day without structured physical activity turned into anxiety and anger. I felt a loss of control. I hated anything that took me away from my habits and my workouts. Something that was supposed to make me physically healthy was making my mind quite sick.
This continued throughout my studies at Lakehead and the UofG. I had to eliminate running for several reasons. I read some articles about steady state running and weight training and its effects of preventing muscle gain. I also over trained in my grade 12 cross country season and developed a stress fracture on my right shin. With running out of the picture I could focus my efforts on weight training and muscle development. I was able to create a leaner self rather quickly after committing my time to weight training and being smart about over training.
My eating habits experienced quite the turn throughout my high school career. Grade 9 consisted mostly of spontaneous consumption of whatever I was craving. Pop for my 9am class, a Caesar wrap for lunch, a bowl of cereal after school and whatever my parents were cooking up for dinner. The only real food I was getting was at dinner and I barely ever ate the healthier options provided. I hated vegetables and most meat. Upon becoming infatuated with losing my gut I began researching quick ways to lose fat. Most of the information available to me talked about calorie deficits and restrictions. With my obsessive behavior I was instantly swallowed by counting and limiting calories. With practice I got real good at keeping track of what I was eating. I would write down absolutely everything. I began to realize how many calories were in common food and slowly eliminated anything calorie dense from my diet. I would go as long as possible through the day without eating so I could save up my daily calories. I became very skilled at tracking my foods and knowing how many calories were in common food items.
The problem was that I was no good at committing to my “diet”. I may have made it a day or two sticking to my allotted calorie count, but every couple nights I would binge on the most calorie dense and delicious foods I could find. It would start out as one Nature Valley Chewy Bar to try and alleviate the hunger and would turn into eating the whole box. My friends would order a pizza and I would find myself anxious in anticipation for the upcoming test of self control. I would fail every time. This continued for months.
Until one day it clicked. I don’t specifically remember the moment but I do remember the process. The first thing I stopped doing was counting calories. I tried to control too much of my diet. Counting calories only made me more stressed and pressured. The concept of moderation is what dug me out of that hole. I started to relax when it came to a healthy balanced diet and instead of numbering my calories and planning my meals I began “listening to my body”. I ate when I was hungry and I stopped once the feeling of hunger subsided. It seemed too simple and I felt foolish for how I had been treating my body until then. I had already developed the habit of making better meal choices only now I was always satisfied so my urges to binge completely disintegrated.
With over training out of the picture, a workout program better structured for my goals and my diet in check I really felt like I was heading in the right direction. I did not enroll in university studies with the intention of becoming a personal trainer nor did I apply to be a front desk motivator at Goodlife Fitness expecting to commit to the company for very long. However, only a few months after starting my position at the front desk of Goodlife “meeting and greeting” members and associates I obtained the position of a Level 2 Personal Trainer.
It did not take me long to fall in love with the position. I love helping people and I love my job. Wasting so much of my life doing the wrong thing motivates me to help others and fast track that process. It is harder to fix an incorrect habit then it is to create a brand new one. I may not be a very big fan of Goodlife Fitness, for numerous reasons, but I do love my job as a Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle Coach.
Just in case you missed it earlier… I love helping people and I love my job.