Having a sense of adventure and trying new things has always been part of who I am. Wait long enough you’ll see me try something new and crazy! There is something thrilling about putting myself out there that energizes me. Now this doesn’t mean this tenacious spirit hasn’t struggled with self-doubt or uncertainty, but my internal dialogue always tells me to keep going and that I can do anything.
This whole “energizing thing” when trying something new feels different when I’m the one who is choosing what that new challenge will be, versus when I’m told I’m going to do something, which leads me to the life of dating Steve Toms, the personal trainer extraordinaire.
All throughout my relationship with Steve I was exposed to the inside world of personal trainers. As the personal training department head, it was his job to push the trainers to be successful, which included practicing what he was preaching.
Steve was a great leader. He was the type of boss who truly cared about his team of personal trainers and what was going on in their lives. When we’d spend time together he’d tell me about different trainers and what their life stories were, and there were some fascinating ones! His relationships with people were never about what they could do for him; it was about helping others be their best. Steve didn’t have to put on an act or be crafty in his relationships because there was something about him that naturally pulled the best out of them and everyone he was around.
The same was true for me. His presence drew out a laser focus in my training and I valued training hard and performing my exercises with excellence. Of course this didn’t mean he didn’t say anything, because he was a chatty smart alec that knew just what buttons to push to get you to do what he wanted you to do. Sometimes his brutal honesty was off-putting, but he was oddly loved for it.
As I mentioned before, Steve had a way of getting people to do what he wanted them to do when it came to physical activity.
My routine during training for figure was to get up at 4:45, get to the gym by 5:00 for my first round of cardio training. Then I’d go to school, teach physical education all day and be to the gym by 4:00 for my second training session with Steve.
There were several times I’d get a text during the day from Steve saying: We are running a 5k when you get here.
I read that text and thought, CRAP! I don’t want to run a 5k. I just want to lift. Can’t a girl just lift!
Upon reading that text, I’d grumble to myself. This girl was not in the mood to run a 5k. This happened several times. Steve wanted to show support by taking part in the Run Club races that happened once a month.
The surprise physical activity ventures didn’t stop there.
The next physical conquest we would be part of would be the Life Time Fitness Alpha Showdown.
Thankfully we were able to train for this event in advance because it was by far the most physically demanding of all the physical things I’ve ever been a part of.
The Alpha Showdown took place at the Chanhassen club that year, and there were competitors from all the Minnesota Life Time Fitness clubs.
The Alpha Showdown was broken down into three different segments of exercises in which competitors would demonstrate their athleticism and strength while pushing the boundaries of what it means to be mortal (Life Time’s words, not mine).
As Alpha Showdown participants we would compete in a series of events including the Power Gauntlet, the Hypertrophy Decathlon featuring 10 different stations, 250 meters of rowing, and finally, an obstacle course for the Endurance Gauntlet. All events will be timed and participants will be disqualified for not meeting required time restrictions for each segment.
Since Steve was doing this event, that automatically meant I had to do it too. He also managed to coax my sister into competing as well. As we arrived we signed in and were assigned a start time. Thankfully I was able to watch other competitors go before me so I could learn from their successes and failures.
My goal was to simply finish within the time restrictions. I wasn’t sure how my body was going to respond to the real deal.
It was my turn to go. I stood at the starting line, my competitive switch immediately activated, you know, that little bit of sass inside that automatically causes you to size other people up. I started the same time as a guy. That alone motivated me. I was going to crush him in this, (that’s my inner voice talking).
Both the men and women completed the same exercises, at different weights. It’s hard not to charge out of the gate when it’s a timed event. This is a problem for people of all ages. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve given a speech about pacing yourself for the mile run to my elementary students. Most of them can’t help but ignore my advice and take off like they’re on fire. It’s only a matter of seconds before they’re walking their laps.
So I tried to hustle and pace myself at the same time because my goal was to finish. I wasn’t going to go through all of that for nothing!
Thankfully I finished. Every limb was begging for me to stop. My heart was beating out of my chest, my lungs were burning and I couldn’t suck in air fast enough. All that lunging, pushing, squalling, thrusting, rowing, army crawling, running was enough physical activity for a month. My sister finished and Steve tuckered out during the squat press portion of the Hypertrophy Decathlon.
I’m thankful that Steve challenged me to compete in the Alpha Showdown. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of accomplishment and a job well done.
What I ask myself is, why does is it easier to have someone else to push me well beyond my box to truly test my limits? It’s as if I need someone else’s permission to allow myself to jump.
Of course this doesn’t happen all the time, but some times I just need someone to give me a shove and confirm that I can accomplish what I’ve set out to do in order to get back on the horse.
Sure I’m full of great ideas and big dreams, but that’s all they are if I don’t do anything with them.
The Alpha Showdown was physical in nature, but there are other showdowns in our lives that will occur one way or another. It’s usually because of time and we have to “face the music” or we finally get the courage to go for it!
When we fail to address the things that are in our way, we waste time. Wasted time equates to wasted opportunities because we allow ourselves to be hung up.
To be honest, I’ve been hung up myself lately. In my mind I know what I need to do, and there are things on my to-do list that have been staring at me for over a month. I should be blogging more consistently, I should have more speaking events, and I should be further in the writing of my book than I am. With that, I know to sift through the voice that reminds me of the things I “should” have accomplished, because if I’m not on-guard, the lies of the enemy get sprinkled in and before I know it, I’m set back even further.
This post isn’t simply about physical conquest to test my mortal abilities, but it’s about the showdowns we face in life.
I’ve allowed the fear of all the things I don’t know beat me in the showdown. I have moments when I’m totally overwhelmed by what I know I need to do, so instead, I do nothing. But you see, these dreams aren’t just about me. I know for certain that God would love to use me as an instrument if I would be obedient. As my pastor said one Sunday in church, “Partial obedience is still disobedience.” Doing things halfway is not okay.
Now I’m not one to wallow in a mistake or setback because I simply refuse to let Satan have a field day in my mind. Instead, I will rise to the occasion because that’s what champions do.
Just like me, you, my friend, are called to win!
This love letter is taken from one of my favorite books of encouragement titled “Love Letters from God—Affirmations for Your Soul By: Bonnie G. Schluter. My parents mailed this to me when I was going to college in Hawai`i.
I love this love letter for so many reasons, especially the last paragraph: “Does a winner go it alone in his fight to win? No, he get the best trainer he can find, and he trusts those professionals to help. The trainer maps out a training program. He sets the course, then the athlete follows that course. My child, you do the same.” Lovingly, God
I truly had the best earthly trainer in Steve and I have the ultimate life trainer– God setting my course. Trust in God as your life trainer and follow HIS course.
Step up to the starting line and stare down the roadblock in front of you. It’s time for you to finally have a showdown… YOU WERE BORN TO WIN!
After my parents met Steve for the first time, we continued to spend more time together both as a couple and with my family. The day in which we’d tell them about baby JT was a long ways off. We’re talking months.
Steve had the idea to take my dad to a Twins game, and then tell him about baby JT. That idea didn’t go as planned, because they ended up talking about other things, one of them being me competing in figure. If you don’t know what that is, you can read more about it here.
My dad never liked the idea of me competing because he didn’t agree with me being in a swimsuit, on a stage in front of hundreds of people, being judged like I was at a cattle auction. I know his perspective is out of his love for me and wanting to protect me as his daughter, so I will never fault him for that.
There are several views on the sport of figure and the world of bodybuilding. Every one competes their own reasons, and if you’re part of the culture, there more depth to your understanding and your norm is different than those outside of that culture because you’ve experienced it.
Some people compete because they love the challenge of contest prep—the rigorous hours of training, a disciplined diet and the gratification victory. This victory doesn’t always come in the form of a title or taking home hardware, because for some, the growth that occurs in the journey is the greatest form of victory.
Some people have the goal of stepping on that stage after major weight loss and celebrating the achievement of their goal. Some people do enjoy the attention and the glamour of being on stage and having the body that many people spend their life wishing for. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoy that part too.
I love competing because every thing about the sport stretches me mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Training pushes me to dig deep in each of these areas and the growth that I experience is priceless. I like pushing myself beyond what I originally thought was possible, because it is then I truly discover what I’m capable of.
What I’m capable of goes well beyond myself. My strength is not my own, but it comes from Christ. My family’s verse is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
I am who I am and I have achieved what I have achieved because of Christ.
No matter how mentally tough I think I am, how strong I think I am physically, how dialed in my physique is, or how “in-check” my emotions are, the most important aspect is the spiritual side of my training—my faith.
As I sit here and write this post, I was prompted to write this:
The Holy Spirit prompts me when I write and at other random times. I get a burst of inspiration and then I run to find a pen or my phone so I can record the words I’m given. This is what came to me today.
Nothing we achieve matters if we don’t recognize where that success comes from. I don’t win because of anything I’ve done. I win because God has given me the body, ability, discipline, faith, heart, confidence, and endless means to succeed. All that I have and all that I am is because He is my source. My eternal victory is secure because of what He has done for me. Victory in Christ is the only victory that truly matters.
Growing in my faith is the best part of figure. I get pushed to the limit when I train and no matter how tough I think I am, there’s always a point where my strength is not enough, and in all actuality, it never will be.
I draw closer to Jesus because I’m literally depending on Him to deliver. He will always provide, and He promises that. What He provides may not always look the way I thought it would, but ultimately He knows what’s best.
My next figure competition would be the North Star on Saturday October 2, 2010. This would be my first competition in which Steve trained me from beginning to end. For my other competitions he started helping me in the final weeks of contest prep.
My goal in competing in the North Start was to win the show, but really what I wanted was to qualify for the national competition that would be held on October 16, 2010 in Atlanta. In order to qualify to compete on the national stage I had to place in the top three of my height class.
This was the moment I was waiting for…
Some people walk into our lives, and the impression they leave in our hearts is eternal.
Some people have the ability to light a fire within us, and that flame gives us the confidence to shine brighter than we ever thought was possible.
Some people have the ability to see beyond the limitations set by the world, but even more than that, they live fearlessly and make strides beyond the boundaries of “the box.”
Some people face circumstances that would paralyze most, but rather than seeing those same circumstances as an obstacle, they’re used as a stepping-stone.
Those are a few of the words I wrote not long after Steve had passed away. These words not only describe Steve, but also my approach and response to losing him.
Steve Toms: A man who has left an eternal impression in the hearts of many people throughout his short 35 years of life. Steve pushed me and others to be their best not only from an athletic standpoint, but in all aspects of life.
He had the ability to see your potential and not only that; he’d do whatever he could to help you reach it. He wasn’t limited by the expectations of others or the rules of this world, but instead pushed the limits. A loving father, husband, and friend; Steve will always be a driving force that reminds us to live life to it’s fullest.
What started as a dream and a call to action from a dear friend, Stien Davis, is now a reality. With your help, the Steve Toms Foundation will be able to carry on the legacy of what Steve was all about, teaching people to live a life of Vitality.
We’re excited to officially launch the Steve Toms Foundation. Please join us in the first annual State of Vitality golf tournament on Monday June 30, 2014.
For more information and to register for this event, go to: www.stevetomsfoundation.org
Like our Steve Toms Foundation Facebook Page
Follow the Steve Toms Foundation on Twitter: @stevetoms22 #stateofvitality
As Steve would say, “LET’S DO THIS!”
Enjoy the day you’ve been blessed with,
I actually found the date that I joined Life Time, which was March 11, 2010. So somewhere around that time was when I first met Steve.
Through the course of preparing for figure competitions I met several people. Each person I met who had some experience in the world of bodybuilding or figure competitions always had an opinion about training for a show. I found that talking to different people only seemed to add more confusion to what I knew and was starting to make me second guess my training.
Figure, like other sports, involves rigorous training. I have the body type that is stubborn and likes to hang on to anything and everything I eat, whereas, some people have been blessed with the natural ability to be lean. This meant that my training involved lifting four days a week and eventually cardio twice a day.
What people don’t realize about figure is that each and every training session matters. You can’t skip a workout because you don’t feel like it or because you have something else going on. The planning involves calculating things down to the day so that your body “peaks” at the right time. By peak, I mean that you’re lean but not overly vascular and your muscles are full and aesthetically pleasing.
Every single piece of food you put into your body matters and is accounted for. I knew the exactly amount of fats, carbohydrates, protein and water I was consuming. Tracking all of these elements is important to what your “end product” will look like.
I was an athlete in college. There’s no doubt that all of your practices are important and your ability to perform is a summation of those efforts. Figure is different because each tiny detail in the whole process is important. If you mess up your diet, it affects your product. If you mess up your training, muscles aren’t developed enough or in time. If you don’t know how to pose, then you’re not showcasing your product at it’s best. If you don’t have confidence on stage, it’s obvious.
My show schedule at the time was going to be to compete in the Gopher State Classic on April 10, 2010 and then the Great North competition on May 15, 2010. This was the first time I had ever done two shows so close together. So not only was I preparing for one, but I had to figure out how to get my body to peak for a second time a month later.
In this panic I called Steve. We ran through what I was currently doing and what I had done for my first show, the Northern States Natural Classic October 17, 2009. I was well aware of his expertise in training and thought it was fascinating. Through the course of his training career Steve had the opportunity to train Kelly Clarkson, the LA Lakers, Kareem Abdul Jabar Jr., actor Peter Gallagher, the US ski team and LA Dodgers alumnus Jim Riggleman. He also trained Hillary Hopkins, a car accident victim whom he helped regain full mobility after doctors told her she’d never walk again. He never used his experience as a way to boast about what he did, but I enjoyed hearing about his training past because I knew he knew what he was doing and that I was working with the best.
Through our conversation Steve told me “stick to what you know” and that I was the one that knew my body the best. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the next and not only that, what works the first time around when competing doesn’t mean replicating the plan will produce the same result.
Bodybuilders are separated into weight classes and figure competitors are separated by height classes. Each height class is associated with the letters A-F. They also have a novice and three different masters divisions (35+ 40+ and 50+).
I ended up taking second in my class at the Gopher State Classic and I took first in my class at the Great North and won the overall. I was very excited for what Steve and I accomplished and looked forward to training together in the future.
After the Great North I went out to celebrate with my sister and some friends and Steve met us for dinner. I was excited about our shared love for fitness and grew even more curious about where this possible relationship might go.
Steve and I May 15, 2010