So, up until this point I’ve talked a lot about the last six months of my life. And while they have brought on some of the most dynamic changes I have ever experienced, I would be wrong to say that they are the only thing that has shaped who I am. Before this major change in my life, the thing that shaped me most was Colorguard.
Let’s start with a little background. If you know about Colorguard at all- and I know that its very possible you don’t, you’ve probably seen a marching band, or watched four girls from your high school attempt and fail to hold their flags in the wind, or maybe you’ve seen them in the Thanksgiving Day parade. But let me promise you, its so much more than that. People who come from high schools and independent programs where their teams compete at a high level, are truly athletes. It would take me days to explain in detail how much goes into this activity so I’ll just cover a few things. The first is conditioning. All highly competitive colorguards condition just like any other sports team: Running more miles, doing more pushups and situps, and spending more time doing dance basics and stretching than most people do in their lifetime. The second is the hours. The vast majority of colorguards rehearse for more than a total of 50 hours every week. This doesn’t include the time spent out of rehearsal, practicing on their own. FInally, and maybe this is the most surprising, people who do colorguard get injured, a lot. And unlike most athletes who have the luxury of seeing a trainer… for the most part these injuries are ignored, in attempt to make sure that the rest of the team does not suffer (not that I’m saying this is a good thing, but it certainly taught me a lot about pushing when you think you can’t).
Needless to say, my time in Colorguard taught me a lot. It taught me about discipline, commitment, and teamwork. It taught me that there are highs a lows to everything, but if you work hard… the high points will more than overshadow the low ones.
A month or so ago, I was thanking a friend who has really helped me through a lot lately. I thanked her for helping me believe in myself, and for making me feel like I could achieve anything I set my mind to. She said something very profound in return… “I just showed you what was already there.” I genuinely believe that the reason it was already there is because of Colorguard. That I am able to get up out of bed at 5:00 AM because that is what I always did for rehearsal. I’m able to run through pain because I learned what it means to follow through on a commitment. And I’m able to train towards a goal because that was my life for eleven years. For eleven years and countless seasons I rehearsed in 100+ degree temperatures for 12 hours, spent entire weekends practicing instead of hanging out with friends, and learned what it feels like to achieve something you have worked so hard for. I am who I am today, because I did colorguard.
So very many of the people I am so blessed to have in my life are there because I met them in this amazing activity, but there three who truly set me on a path to success, and I think about them a lot when I don’t feel like working out, or when someone asks me for advice, or even just when I’m on a run and I need some encouraging words. I feel like I want to take a little bit of time to talk about them here because they have made such an enormous impact on my world.
The first of those people is my amazing friend Mel. I honestly believe that I learned what true friendship is through having her as a friend. When you start being friends with someone at 16, they watch you change… over and over and over again. Maybe thats why our friendship has lasted when so many others didn’t. I think about her a lot on days when I don’t want to get out of bed and go to the gym. I think about the countless mornings that she dragged me out of bed to get to rehearsal on time, and all of the motivational speeches she gave a scared, overwhelmed, 16 year old version of me… and I know that she taught me so much about believing in myself even when it seems I’m the only one who does.
The second person is Jen. I also met Jen when I was 16 and she took me under her wing. I learned from her that hard work and persistence will take you places. I watched her go back and do things over and over again until she got them right. She also showed me that doing things with thought, and accuracy is much better than practicing imperfections. I apply this every day when I exercise. In a spin class I am fully aware that the extent to which I pay attention to my technique is directly proportional to the results I will see. See how it all just relates right back to Colorguard?
The third person is someone who I have know since I was 13. Ally was my high school Colorguard instructor and I honestly believe that much of my ability to deal with the struggle, pain, and exhaustion that comes with weight loss and exercise is derived from lessons that she taught me. She was also there for me through some of the most difficult times of my life. There were moments in high school when I didn’t quite understand where she was coming from when she yelled at me or at the team as a whole for not doing our best, or what she believed to be our best. Looking back on it, I know that she had expectations for us far beyond our own, that she knew what we were capable of beyond a shadow of a doubt. Sometimes, when I literally cannot run anymore (like during the trisprint for example) I think of hour 15 of a 30 hour rehearsal weekend, and I think of Ally telling us just do it one more time, and one more time again and again… and I know, that if I can push through that, I can put one foot in front of the other for ten more minutes. There are times when I think how nice it would be to have her there pushing me through a tough workout. Ally was tough on me before I was able to be tough on myself. She helped me grow a thick skin and a backbone. And I am so grateful that going into what was six of the hardest months of my life, I had both of those things to help get me through.
Colorguard prepared me for so much in life. For a long time after I stopped doing it, I struggled to find something to replace it with. I missed working toward a goal, physically and mentally. I missed performing, And I missed the friendship and teamwork that came along with those goals. Exercise has finally filled that void for me. There are so very many goals to achieve now, I have replaced performing with races, and I have an incredible “team” of fitness friends to work toward those goals with. I guess what I’m really saying here is, I hope that if there are other people out there like me, who struggled after losing the activity or sport that they loved to do for so long, try to find a type of exercise you love! I promise… it really does make all the difference. And all of the lessons that activity taught you, will find their way into your new goals and dreams.