Fitness starts with health. If what you’re doing to your body doesn’t make your head feel right — regardless of how good you may look — change the equation because, chances are, it’s probably not good for you. Like many of you, I searched for a long time to find the right way to be strong, fit, healthy and happy.
I was born a “mover,” someone who could never sit still. Dancing is my first passion. Initially, I was determined to be a showgirl, the type of dancer who was vibrant, lively and dynamic. However, even with all the passion in the world, I struggled. Moving from audition to audition, I was behind in technique, had limited strength and flexibility, atrocious extensions and, most importantly, I completely lacked confidence.
I will never forget one of my most important auditions. I had a great connection with a choreographer, but I completely blew the opportunity. I tried following up with her on numerous occasions, pleading for a second chance, but I was given the same response: “I’m sorry, but you’re just not tall enough.” Regardless, I knew the real reason — I was lacking confidence and it was showing in my performance.
Like many of us, we learn more from failure than we do from success. This was anything but a success. I had to reevaluate my future. I was clearly lacking two things: height and confidence. I knew I couldn’t grow taller, but I could make positive changes to my body and my mind. So I started hitting the gym — hard.
I wanted to look fit and be fit, but the maze of options was overwhelming. I knew what I wanted to look like, but was completely disoriented on how to get there. I attempted every fad diet and workout you can possibly imagine. I was constantly comparing myself to other girls. I shamefully took unhealthy approaches and saw unhealthy results. I watched my body bounce back and forth and rarely felt happy with it. I drove myself crazy looking at pictures of competitors, dancers and models, wondering what I needed to do to look like them.
Then one day it hit me. I could stare all I want, but staring, following another girl’s workout plan or dieting the way she does will not get me to look like her. I am me, and will always be me, just like you will always be you.
What I’ve learned in fitness is simple: There are many ways to feel great and look great and it’s supposed to be fun. Why do we work out? It relieves, revitalizes, energizes and motivates each of us. It boosts those endorphins. It makes us look better and feel better. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. A healthy mind makes better decisions. Better decisions result in better performance and your life is one big performance. Your job, your relationships and, of course, your workout! Build the stage you want to build — and if you’re not tall enough for it, find a different way to climb to the top.
My body is a result of an everyday self-study. I thrive on the science behind workouts: what lifting weights does to our muscles, how cardio burns fat, how the body requires a breakdown of macrobiotics in order to function and be fueled properly.
I like performance. I love to stand out. Today I proudly stand an NPC figure competitor and guest poser, fitness model recently seen on the cover of PhillyFit magazine, a featured Atlantic City performer, a strong leader and, most of all, the MissFit! You likely are different than me — with different needs and goals. But if you are reading this, we have one significant thing in common. We want to be strong, healthy, powerful and successful in whatever we do — whether as a performer, a mom raising her children, a businessperson or athlete. My goal is to help others embrace the positive and use it to fuel success, taking the negative as a way to improve yourself and grow as a person.
Happiness is a choice. With a smart mind we can find the right diet and most effective exercise plan, both to achieve our fitness goals as well as a healthy and wonderful lifestyle. You can love your workouts. You can gain energy, strength and confidence. You can look better and feel better. You will be a healthier and, most important, happier person. Believe in yourself first and beautiful outcomes will happen!
Tess Stumpf is a certified personal trainer at 12th Street Gym. The NPF Figure Competitor, dancer and fitness model is the owner and founder of MissFit Tess. For more information, visit www.missfittess.com.
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