Fitness and Wellness is a Journey

January 2023

by Chantel Oakley | photo by Brooks Oakley 

I have been coaching in the fitness industry for almost 15 years. If there is one thing I have learned, it is this: fitness and wellness is a journey that requires a motivation driven by a deeply rooted value and perseverance fueled by our ability to focus on our progress instead of our performance.  

As a lifetime and former collegiate athlete, training and goal-setting are things that have been a part of my life since I was a little girl. I was constantly training to perform well and be the best I could be at whatever sport I was playing. This created opportunities for me to play sports in college and taught me to work hard for something I want. At the same time, operating from a foundation of performance took a toll on my mental, physical, and emotional health. In 2015, as a mom of three boys (we are now a family of four boys), I worked as a fitness coach and was actively involved in leadership and mentorship in our community. And I was STRUGGLING. Despite having a wonderful community, a healthy family, exercising, sleeping regularly, and eating well, I was exhausted, anxious, stressed, sick regularly, and felt constant shame and guilt over the ways I was falling short in my life. After several events, I went to my doctor and was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome- a fancy way of saying “Burn Out.” I had been pushing too hard for too long, and my body couldn’t “hang” anymore. Thus began a year-long recovery that was BRUTAL. It involved lots of rest, changing some things with my nutrition, and taking a deep internal dive into what led to my burnout in the first place.  

During this season, I began to realize that this constant drive I had to perform and achieve my goals in order to find my worth was a major contributing factor to my burnout. Now, I know what you might be thinking, “Aren’t goals and performance good for us? Don’t they encourage growth and success?” And my answer to you is, “YES!” Goals are great! Performing well is wonderful! However, when goals and performance are the only things driving us and helping us feel value, it starts to consume us, which can be harmful and even counterproductive. 

After my journey through and recovery from adrenal fatigue, I began to view my goals as a journey driven by values. And I began to focus on my progress over my performance. On any journey, we are mindful of our destination (where we want to go), but we recognize and focus on the steps we must take to get there. It is the same when it comes to our fitness and wellness. It is important that we have a final destination in mind, and it should be deeply rooted in a VALUE. This is known as value-driven motivation. Value-driven motivation transcends specific actions, time, and situations. I call it my “why.” For the first 35 years of my life, my “why” was to be the best (I’m not saying I was the best, but I sure wanted to be); I was driven by performance. After my diagnosis, the motivation behind my fitness and wellness has been driven by the value of being strong- physically, mentally, and emotionally - and being an engaged wife to my husband and mom to my boys. This is a “why” that will never go away. I am always aware of my “why,” which guides my next steps, and I recognize that it will take time to get there. To help me persevere, I focus on the journey, acknowledge my progress, celebrate it, and move forward toward my goal in a steady plod. 

So, how do you adapt this mindset to your fitness journey? Let me ask you some questions that may help: 

  1. What is the VALUE behind your fitness and wellness goals? What is your “why”? 
  2. What are some obstacles you might encounter? How can you overcome them? 
  3. What is the progress you have already made on your journey? How can you celebrate that? 
  4. In what ways will you continue to move forward on your fitness journey? 

I recognize that this is not your traditional fitness and goal-setting approach. However, I know from personal and professional experience that this approach, one that is simultaneously aware of the internal and external process, will bring sustainability, remove shame and guilt and help you feel hopeful as you journey ahead. And, as you do, remember that I am cheering you on! 

Originally printed in the January 2023 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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