I met my boyfriend and co-founder of More Than Strength, Danny Flanick, in college. Ironically, I had just taken a serious turn in my life. I found myself 15-20 lbs heavier than when I started college; and yes, unfortunately the dreaded “freshman 15” continues into your sophomore year if you don’t make conscious healthy decisions – I learned that one the hard way. I was also battling an internal struggle. I began seeking and needing approval from my friends and peers over my outfits, activities, and decisions. I was also so overly involved in clubs and my on-campus job, that my academics took a backseat. My level of self-consciousness continued to rise with the gaining of weight and so did my levels of constant anxiety and need for acceptance among my peers. Although I’ve always struggled with self-consciousness and self-love, it was becoming more and more of a prominent issue. I was losing my self-worth a little bit and put everything and everyone else ahead of caring for myself. My mentality of positivity, acceptance, and love for others was slowly fading and looking back, it took me too long to realize that in myself. It felt like my inner soul was begging for my physical body to live a healthier and happier life in all aspects.
This article isn’t meant to be the love story between my handsome Danny and I, but after meeting him, I was able to see a new light in myself. He was a true gentleman to me from the very beginning. He walked me to my dorm room, opened the car door for me, and was always very polite and respectful. It was something I had never experienced. He showed me the kind of man that I deserved and that I was perfect being myself – and nobody else. I realized that I never really had to change my likes and dislikes, I didn’t have to wear certain clothes, and I certainly didn’t need approval from anyone but myself. So, I put on my old, torn up Sublime t-shirt and black high-top converse and finally started heading in the right direction to make myself a happier, more confident, self-loving human being that contributed positively to this world. Danny and I bonded over music by the Avett Brothers (thanks, Jim!) and books like, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and deeply rooted conversations that acted as therapy for the both of us right when we both needed it most. My mental health was building back up from these simple things, alone. I confided in him, mainly, and my other dear friend, Jim, in my desire for a lifestyle change because I didn’t exactly know what to eat or how to exercise. I knew Danny and Jim were the best people to ask for advice in the realm of working out. Even though I had been very active in sports my whole life, when it came to exercising in a gym setting, I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t know the difference between a barbell and a dumbbell.
Thankfully, Danny and Jim took me under their wings and taught me how to properly squat, bench, deadlift, and over head press. My gratitude for these two amazing men is inexplainable because I genuinely don’t think they understand the power of what they gave me. I began lifting and eating healthier, which in turn allowed my body to build muscle and strength, lost fat, build my confidence, and empower myself more than most other changes I endured during this time. Barbell training paired with meditation, journaling, and meaningful relationships completely empowered me to be my own person… to challenge my old perception on life, to open up to everything around me, to love myself for the imperfections that I have, and to understand that life is full of beautifully perfect imperfections in everyone that should be embraced, not shamed.
Fast-forward to now, four plus years later, I squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, row, power clean, snatch, and have just began learning split jerks. Throughout my years struggling with body image, attempting perfection, and harboring self-doubt, I can guarantee that because of barbell training, meditation, and amazing, life-long friends I am a more confident, happier, healthier, and stronger human being in every form of those words. I’ve accepted that my life will NEVER be close to perfect and I’ve even found solace in knowing that there are going to be so many imperfections throughout life. Life is SO unpredictable sometimes, but learning to love yourself just as you are now and learning to love the process of training and bettering one’s self has changed my life in the most positive way. Training for me is not just about the weight I lift, how I lift, or what I look like because I lift… it’s about More Than Strength… it’s about WHY I lift. I lift for myself… for solace, for imperfection, for showing myself that my body CAN and WILL overcome with hard work mentally and physically, and trying my best every time I walk into the gym or face one of life’s struggles.