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Five Lessons I’ve Learned from my Three-Year-Old

me and livI want to share my story of returning to fitness in the hope that other moms will know they aren’t alone in trying to find their way back to health and fitness. After my daughter, Olivia, was born, I slowly stopped teaching exercise classes, returned to financial services, experienced loss, learned about myself and eventually decided to return to my passion in fitness. I wanted make a deeper connection with members, so I started studying to pass my exam to become a certified personal trainer. During that time, I returned to the fitness setting to teach some classes. Despite the break I had taken from teaching fitness, members still echoed the same things, “If I could change ___ (fill in the blank with a body part) then I would be happy with my body/self.” My experiences over the past few years have changed the way I reflected on the way I treat myself, and I want to encourage ourselves to do the same.

Have I mentioned that my daughter, Olivia, is amazing? She is three years old, but she is the most amazing and energetic little girl. What does this have to do with my journey back to fitness? Everything. Olivia is going to look to me for advice and wisdom and my voice has to be clearer than the internet, television and all other things out there that chip away at us, telling us we need to be better. If I can’t pull out the desire in a client, how will I ever navigate the challenges of mothering my own daughter? I am not perfect and can be too hard on myself at times, but I can say that I have taken a few hints from my amazing toddler. Sure, some days I am chasing Olivia while begging her to stop putting rocks in her mouth, but overall, I think she is on to something. So here it is: five lessons I’ve learned from my three-year-old to finally find success in fitness, inner confidence and the drive to get outside my cardio-queen comfort zone.

1. It’s okay to ask for help. Olivia will often try to tie her shoes for 20 minutes before calling for help. She has no shame when she admits that she can’t quite get it. Even after working with fellow staff to work on my resistance training abilities and comfort with machines, I still needed help, so I enlisted Mark as my trainer. Could I do it on my own? Of course! If I left Olivia with her shoe for a few hours, then we would probably find something that resembled tying a shoe. But for some reason, as we get older, we don’t want to ask for help anymore. I enjoy the break where someone else instructs and I just have to work hard during my training sessions. Don’t be afraid of help!

2. Spend time with those that lift you up. Olivia has a lot of “best friends” (we keep trying to explain what “best” actually means). Some days, Olivia has a friend in need of a nap and she will declare that said child “is not my best friend anymore.” Other times, Olivia is the cranky one needing a nap. Luckily for her, she is three and by the end of the day, everyone is back to being “best friend” again. As we grow older and get busier, our time is pretty valuable. We all go through rough patches and we should be there for our friends. However, by adulthood we shouldn’t have to endure petty drama or pointless competition. Everyone can picture that friend who always seems to be talking about someone or laughing at your goals. Learn to deal with them so it doesn’t impact you in a negative way or ditch them altogether.

3. It’s okay to be bossy. The first time my friend brought her son over for a play date at our home, my daughter pulled him off the mini trampoline, threw him to the ground and stood over him. Obviously, she had to apologize and had a chance to have a “do over” where she let him jump on the trampoline and take turns. So, why did I just share with you that Olivia is kind of a beast sometimes? The point is that when it comes to your health, you are the boss. You don’t need that colleague or friend telling you how to be healthy. Even if they are trying to be helpful, what worked for them, might not work for you. Not to mention, even people with the best intentions don’t always understand the facts. Talk to your physician, dietitian, trainer or health coach. They can help guide you. We live in a society full of health products, quick solutions, miracle cures, things that tone and tighten, pills that shrink and supplements to help you lose weight fast while gaining muscle. It’s your health so be bossy, get the facts and utilize qualified expertise, rather than falling for the gimmicks. You can decide to be a beast about it or you can be the one lying on the floor wondering what happened.

4. Bribes work. One of Olivia’s teachers once told me that if I want Olivia to obey the law, I have to lay down the law. It is true that Olivia seems to respond to structure and rules and looks to me to set boundaries. I have also seen amazing results trading for chocolate and jelly beans. Telling her it’s time to leave the park goes over much better if a cupcake is waiting at home. I bribe myself by buying new workout clothes or treating myself to a massage. It keeps me motivated to know I get rewards. So if you need to bribe yourself here or there, blame your parents, because they started it.

5. Just be. Olivia doesn’t understand weight loss ads or comprehend body image. She doesn’t need to go to the gym because she is active playing. She apologizes if she’s done wrong and celebrates all of her accomplishments. Whether it’s learning to swim or sharing a rock with me that she found on the street, the celebration is equally as enthusiastic for both. The more we focus on “if we could change…” the less time we spend in the present. It is great to strive for future goals including fitness milestones, educational achievements and career aspirations; but, while striving toward something in the future, let’s not forget to open ourselves up for moments of celebration that are currently happening.

My journey back to fitness has led me to find a new passion for weight training, and along the way, I’ve discovered a newfound inner-confidence (with some helpful reminders and encouragement from my toddler, of course!). I am thankful to be in a profession that I am passionate about and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of other people’s journies as they tackle their own fitness goals.


Robyn Sackrison graduated from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science degree in 2005. After working in financial services for many years, Robyn left the industry to follow her passion for health and fitness. Robyn and her husband welcomed a daughter, Olivia to their family in February 2011.  In addition to being a water aerobics and boot camp instructor, Robyn is an ACE certified personal trainer.  

This post is sponsored by Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Saint Mary’s Fitness Center.

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3 comments

  1. I love this! Thank you so much; an incredible reminder of the relatively “simple” things we can do to feel better inside and out!

  2. Jamie Schnell

    This is the best post! Thank you!

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